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There have been many competing theories about why we eat spicy food.  Some have posited that hot peppers force sweat, a welcomed cooling reflex desirable in hot places.  Another theory, also in equatorial regions, argues that spice extends the shelf-life of food that sours quickly under the sun.  Still others suggest that eating packets of hot sauce in the cafeteria was a sure-fire way to get attention and win friends… what, just me?

Today the NY Times proposes a novel theory for why we seek the heat: because we can.  We eat peppers like we seek any other dangerous thrill, with our rational brain reassuring our visceral self that the flames are temporary.  And we are unique in that ability.  Dr. Bloom, a Yale psychologist, tells the Times "Philosophers have often looked for the defining feature of humans — language, rationality, culture and so on. I’d stick with this: Man is the only animal that likes Tabasco sauce.”

If this whet your appetite check out our story about American slaves that went on strike until their master delivered them pepper.

Flickr/ Marshall Astor

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