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People's Soup Choices Reflect Their Personality Types

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Updated December 06, 2003

December, 2000 - You not only are what you eat, you also are what you slurp, at least according to Brian Wansink, who has done a study that links soup choices to personality types.

The University of Illinois marketing professor has come up with "lifestyle and personality clusters" based on soup preferences, which were published last month in the Journal of Database Marketing.

"The foods we eat do say a lot about who we are as people," Wansink asserted in an interview. "Because soup is one of America's favorite comfort foods, we thought it would be interesting to examine personality types based on strongly expressed soup preferences." The UI professor, who runs the campus Food & Brand Lab, defines comfort foods as "soothing and satisfying foods" that provide a source of emotional balance during times of stress and turmoil.

Adults over 18 years old (602 women and 401 men) were surveyed by telephone to assess their opinions of 12 common soup products. From these varieties, the four most popular soups -- chicken noodle, tomato, minestrone and vegetable -- were cross-tabulated with personality and lifestyle traits to create the following "soup personality types."

If you have a hankering for chicken noodle soup, you scored high on the church-going scale, are fond of pets, are more likely to be stubborn and less likely to be outdoorsy.

If minestrone filled your mug, you were more likely to be physically fit, nutritionally conscious, family spirited, unlikely to own a pet and also on a restricted diet.

A vegetable soup aficionado was a homebody at heart, less likely to be a world traveler, less likely to be spontaneous and more likely to read family and home magazines. Tomato soup lovers, by contrast, could stomach more adventure, were more likely to be social and also tended to enjoy books and pets.

Wansink said many aspects of soup consumption seemed to mirror childhood memories and remembered comforts. Two-thirds of those surveyed agreed that soup made them feel better about themselves, and more than half said chicken noodle soup made them feel better when sick, just as mom would have wanted it.

While Americans rank ice cream, hot chocolate and cookies as their favorite "sweet" comfort foods, soup is popular because "of an over-reliance on convenience and speed and the disappearance of the traditional meal occasion," according to Wansink.

What's more, soup is the comfort food that consumers "feel least guilty eating" in times of stress or unhappiness. Half of the respondents described themselves as "stressed out" when they eat comfort foods. Americans increasingly seem to seek comfort foods that seem to meet the "mom" taste standard of "being good for you."

---University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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