Understanding the role of personality and alexithymia in food preferences and PROP taste perception

Antonietta Robino, Massimo Mezzavilla, Nicola Pirastu, Martina La Bianca, Paolo Gasparini, Davide Carlino, Beverly J. Tepper

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32 Scopus citations


Taste perception and food preferences are influenced by a variety of factors, including personality characteristics. The aims of this study were to examine the role of personality characteristics, such as alexithymia (a personality construct characterized by inability to identify, describe, and work with one's own feelings), in: 1) taste responses to the bitter genetic taste-marker PROP and 2) food liking. We studied 649 healthy subjects residing in six genetically-isolated villages of Northeast Italy. Data on PROP taste responsiveness, food liking, personality characteristics and TAS2R28 genotypes were collected.Results showed that PROP non-tasters had higher alexithymia scores than PROP tasters. Moreover, the presence of alexithymia in heterozygous individuals for the rs1726886 polymorphism of the TAS2R38 gene was associated with a reduction in the perceived intensity of PROP.Finally, higher alexithymia scores were associated with liking of alcohol, sweets and fats/meats whereas lower alexithymia scores were related to liking of vegetables, condiments and strong cheeses, Measures of temperament, character, anxiety and depression were also related to food liking.Our findings suggest that: 1) alexithymia, in addition to the TAS2R38 polymorphism, may play a role in responsiveness to the aversive and bitter taste of PROP; and 2) alexithymia, in combination with other personality traits, may provide important insights for better understanding food liking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-78
Number of pages7
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • Alexithymia
  • Food preferences
  • PROP responsiveness
  • Personality traits


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