Same-Same: Ride A Rollercoaster or Eat A Chili Pepper?

How psychologists are comparing chili peppers to thrill rides

There is nothing more thrilling than experiencing both the terror and excitement of riding a rollercoaster….oh wait. Yeah, there is.

Eating a chili pepper.

Research by psychologist Paul Rozin suggests that the adrenaline rush of riding a roller coaster - you know the feeling that you might die, but you are safely harnessed in and locked on a track, is similar to the feeling you get when eating a chili pepper.

When most people eat a chili pepper they experience that short period of doubt and unknowing.

Am I going to die?

Is my mouth going to burn off?

Why am I sweating so hard?

This feeling is also known as “constrained risk”. This is when you do something knowing that you may experience fear and pain, but that it will not do harm to you. You are able to endure the pain or fear to ultimately find pleasure. You are able to experience intense and extreme feelings without any risk. Other examples can be walking through a haunted house maze or bungee jumping, or even exercise.

Dr. Rozin is the world’s leading expert on “disgust”. He has done extensive research on people’s reactions to foods - more specific nature of cuisine and cultural evolution, acquisition of likes and dislikes of food, biological determinants of food choices, and psychological responses to recycled water.

Roller coasters are often tall, winding, and even spiral upside down. The intense feelings of fear are then followed by exhilaration, mostly because you felt scared as you were winding upside down, holding tight onto the harness, screaming your head off, but then slowly turning that scream into a laugh as you make your final descent back to home base. This is much like tasting a chili pepper. The sensation of the heat may start out small just like the inching of the roller coaster cart to its highest point, but then the heat intensifies and you feel a little bit of pain on your tongue and then a little fear of the intense heat that is about to come, but ultimately the chili pepper satisfies and you can’t wait to eat your next one.

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