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The effect of spicy gustatory sensations on variety-seeking

Katina Kulow, PhD M. Sayantani T. Kramer
Psychology and Marketing. July 5, 2017

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34 (August), 786-94.

Abstract

Can spicy gustatory sensations increase variety‐seeking in subsequent unrelated choices—and if so, how? The present research explores these questions. Based on the metaphor “variety is the spice of life,” and drawing on research on metaphors and embodied cognition, the authors propose that spicy gustatory sensations may activate a desire to be interesting that leads to greater variety in subsequent unrelated choices. Specifically, the first study demonstrates that tasting spicy vs. mild potato chips results in greater variety‐seeking in candy bars—but only when there is a time delay between the gustatory sensation and the variety‐seeking choice task, suggesting an underlying motivational process. Further, the effect of spicy gustatory sensations on variety‐seeking strengthens as the time delay increases, consistent with a motivational account. The second study provides evidence for a metaphor‐based explanation of the effect by demonstrating that while there is no difference in variety‐seeking among consumers who have tasted a spicy candy and those merely primed with the metaphor “variety is the spice of life,” variety‐seeking is lower among consumers who have tasted a mild candy. This study also rules out taste‐related factors as an alternative explanation.

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