Food for Comfort

Examines the psychological aspect of craving for food. Food being craved by men and women; Personality traits associated with food preferences.

By Kirsten Galisson, published January 1, 2001 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

TASTE

We all do scream for ice cream: When 1,005 men and women were asked to name their favorite comfort food, both overwhelmingly chose ice dream. Lead author Brian Wansink, Ph.D., a University of Illinois marketing professor, found that people cognitively connect important past associations with specific foods. Craving ice cream, for example, may stem from a desire to recapture carefree, childhood days of running after the Good Humor track.

Aside from a shared love of ice cream, however, men and women craved different foods. While women tend to yearn for sweet, indulgent foods like chocolate, men usually seek hot dishes like pizza. Such preferences may reveal personality traits, Wansink says, creating a "synergy between person and food." For instance, men are more likely than women to find steak comforting, as it reinforces a traditional, macho personality. Wansink's findings were published recently in American Demographics, and he hopes that further research on food psychology may help determine "how one can reengineer what they see as comfort food to improve their eating habits."

PHOTO (COLOR): Eating ice cream