Feb 032011
 

Robert Coutu, spring 2011

Italians, known for their pride in their national cuisine, would surely feel less remorse upon indulging on locally made chocolate or stone oven pizzas. At least, one would be led to believe so, thinking of national stereotypes.  According to a similar logic, Americans would be bent on the nutritional effectiveness of their foods, classifying ‘pleasure’ foods with ‘healthy’ foods, as if one category could never stray into the next. Though basing an experiment and its hypotheses on these general assumptions on cultures is unscientific, it is how this experiment came about: to discover just how much Italian and American cultures associate indulgent foods with guilt, and how health may contribute to food choices.

Research Questions

I. Why would there be differences in response to food, according to Italian and American culture?

II. Why would there be differences in response to food, according to gender?

Hypotheses

I. Female participants would respond to food with more words associated with guilt than male participants.  Particularly with ‘chocolate’ and ‘nutella’.

II. Female American participants would respond to food with more words associated with guilt than female Italian participants.

III. Male Italian participants would respond to food with more words associated with guilt than male American participants.

IV. American participants would prefer whole wheat and diet products more than Italian participants.

V. American participants would have more guilty pleasures associated with sweets than Italian participants.

Method


Participants

A total of 60 people were involved in the survey.  Thirty of these participants were Italians, while the other thirty were Americans. The two groups of nationalities were then split into two more groups, according to gender.  In total, there were four groups, each consisting of 15 people, who were surveyed: Italian females, Italian males, American females, and American males. These participants were recruited at the Umbra Institute, the University of Perugia, and local bars and cafes. Participants had to state their nationalities, but were not asked disclose their age. In general, participants of the same general age range were targeted (through appearance) in order to set more consistent methods.

Materials

All that was required was pen and paper for recording participant responses.

Procedure

This experiment did not gather participants to a specific location in order to collect data. Instead, the surveys were taken out to the field, in public, at random. There were no consent papers or documents that participants were required to sign. People were asked if they would like to participate in a brief food survey in regards to a food and culture course held at the Umbra Institute. The researcher would state the name of a food, such as ‘gelato’, and would have the participant respond with two adjectives that come to mind upon hearing the food, such as ‘cold and refreshing’.  After a series of such words, the participants would be asked whether they prefer whole wheat or white bread, regular soda or diet soda, and also what their guilty pleasures are in terms of food. A possible issue that a researcher could phase in such methods is the language barrier between Italians and Americans. Perhaps experiment methods are too difficult to translate or perhaps participant responses are difficult to hear or understand, which could interfere with accuracy of data.
Six foods were named to every participant:: gelato, pizza, croissant, pizza, chocolate, and nutella. These foods were translated into Italian for Italian participants.  They were chosen for the experiment because they are commonly eaten in both countries and are foods often associated with indulgence.
Whole wheat bread has greater health benefits than white bread (Mayo, 2010) but is often considered bland in taste, leading many to dislike it. Choosing whole wheat bread could be due to nutritional reasons as opposed to reasons related to indulgence. A similar concept is used for soda. Diet soda, which has nearly no calories and no sugar, could potentially be healthier to consume than regular soda, which is high in sugar. One may be sacrificing taste in order to stay healthier, by choosing diet soda.  The final question on guilty pleasures is to simply analyze possible common foods associated with guilt in both cultures.

Results

Hypothesis 1

Female participants would respond to food with more words associated with guilt than male participants.  This hypothesis is supported by participant responses. Words associated with weight-gain, such as ‘fatty’ or ‘calorical’ were used nearly seven times more with female participants than with male participants.
Female participants did respond with particular guilt towards the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘nutella’. According to studies on normal-weight women’s emotional responses to chocolate (Macht & Dettmer, 2006) women respond with greater guilt to not just eating, but being exposed to high-calorie foods. If this study holds any ground, perhaps even hearing the names of high-calorie foods, which would conjure up images in the minds of participants, will produce great guilt to women.

Hypothesis II

American females would respond to foods with more words associated with guilt than Italian females. This hypothesis is not supported in the least. The inverse showed further support than the hypothesis. Italian women seem to respond with more guilt toward indulgent foods than American women.

“Chocolate” received the response ‘grasso’ (fat) three times from Italian female participants, as opposed to zero times from American female participants. While ‘grasso’ was in the top three responses to ‘chocolate’, no words associated with weight gain or guilt were in the top three responses for Americans. Italian women seem to show more guilt toward chocolate consumption than American women.
‘Nutella’ was described as ‘fatty’ by American women on three occasions, and was never described as ‘grasso’ by Italian women. Italian women did, however, use the word ‘calorica’ three times, implying that it causes weight gain.  Therefore, for ‘nutella’, American and Italian women showed equal signs of guilt.

Hypothesis III
Italian males would respond to foods with more guilt than American males. This hypothesis was not supported. Both groups used terms related with weight-gain only once. Neither group seems overly concerned with weight-gain in relation to pleasurable foods.

Hypothesis IV
American participants would prefer to eat whole wheat bread more than Italian participants. This hypothesis is strongly supported by both male and female groups of each nationality. American participants responded seven times more than Italians in relation to whole wheat preference. No Italian male stated that he would prefer whole wheat bread.
Hypothesis V

American participants would state more guilty pleasures that are sweet. This hypothesis is not supported by the data. Americans show no large preference in guilty pleasures according to sweetness. If anything, Italians appear to have more of an affinity towards chocolate (a sweet) than Americans.

Discussion

From these brief results, one could presumably say that Italians associate guilt with food more so than Americans. In particular, it would seem that Italian women are more self conscious than American women when it comes to consuming indulgent foods. They are perhaps more preoccupied with avoiding foods known to cause weight gain.  What is peculiar about this behavior is that they tend to avoid whole wheat bread, which is scientifically proven to be healthier and may perhaps aid in weight loss.  Italian women do, however, appear to drink more diet soda than American women, despite the disputable taste of the no-sugar product.
Why exactly, a people who hold its nation’s cuisine to such high regard, would feel more guilt in consumption of its products, is up to further research.  Perhaps one could delve into the psychological and sociological workings of self image or even the Christian idea of sin, in relation to indulgence.

Limitations
The survey and its results act more as a prototype for further experiments. There are clear scientific flaws built within its procedure. Examples of such errors would include: a lack of consent forms, a lack of participant background information (such as specific age, history with eating disorders, vegetarianism, exercise…etc), likelihood of researcher bias (as many American participants were previously acquainted with the researcher), and inconsistent questioning locations.
There is only so much that a small study such as this, based on largely groundless assumptions and setup, can concur or even suggest. With further refinement of experimental design and focus, results could show significant social patterns or characteristics worthy of public knowledge.

Tables

Most Common Adjective Responses to Foods

Italian Fem

American Fem Italian Male American Male
Gelato Fresco (7)
Gustoso (6)
Dolce (4)
Cold (5)
Sweet (5)
Creamy (5)
Delicious (5)
Dolce (5)
Freddo (5)
Fresco (4)
Cold (5)
Sweet (5)
Delicious (3)
Creamy (3)
Pizza Croccante (3)
Squisita (2)
Pesante (2)
Cheesy (7)
Greasy (5)
Hot (5)
Gustosa (5)
Buona (3)
Croccante (3)
Tasty (4)
Hot (4)
Crispy (4)
Cornetto\Croissant Caldo (6)
Dolce (4)
Fragrante (3)
Flaky (7)
Buttery (3)
Light (3)
Dolce (8)
Mattutino (4)
Morbido (4)
Flaky (7)
Buttery (5)
Light (3)
Cioccolato\Chocolate Fondente (4)
Grasso (3)
Marrone (3)
Rich (4)
Delicious (3)
Sweet (3)
Amaro (4)
Fondente (3)
Buona (2)
Smooth (4)
Sweet (3)
Dark (3)
Nutella Cremosa (4)
Spalmabile (3)
Calorica (3)
Sweet (3)
Fatty (3)
Chocolatey (3)
Fantastico (4)
Spalmabile (3)
Cremosa (3)
Smooth (4)
Spreadable (3)
Sweet (4)

Prefered Breads and Sodas

Italian Fem American Fem Italian Male American Male
White Bread 12 3 15 6
Whole Wheat Bread 3 12 0 9
Regular Soda 4 6 3 1
Diet Soda 11 9 12 14

Most Common Food Pleasures

Italian Fem

American Fem Italian Male American Male
Guilty  Pleasure
Peccato di Gola
Cioccolato (6)
Nutella (2)
Chocolate (5)
Ice Cream (2)
Cioccolato (4)
Patate fritte (2)
Fried Food (3)
Cookies (3)


Italian Females

1)

Gelato -lattoso, freddo

Pizza -profumata, bollente

Cornetto -friabile (crumbly) , zuccheroso

Cioccolato -fondente, aromatizato

Nutella -calorica, indespinsabile
Tipo di Pane bianco

Tipo di Soda diet

Peccato di Gola la patatine

2)

-fresco, calorico

-fabolosa, pesante

-libidinoso, energizante

-mistico, paradisiaco (heavenly)

-inebriante (intoxicating), sensuale

bianco

regular

nutella

3)

-gradevole, irresistibile

-classica, esquisita

-evitabile (avoidable), calorico

-che da di pendenza, marrone

-cremosa, consolatoria

bianco

diet

cioccolato

4)

-dolce, gustoso

-calda, morbida

-soffice, caldo

-bolente, saporito

-cremosa, marrone

bianco

regular

pasta

5)

-dolce, refrescante

-buona, salato

-morbido, gustoso

-dolce, stimolante

-fantastico, marrrone

integrale

regolare

gelato

6)

-gustoso, ghiacciato

-saporita, deliziosa

-dolce, asfitzioso (indulgent)
-amaro, sofflice

-buona, calorica

bianco

regular

cioccolato

7)

-fresco, gustoso

-migliore, croccante

-mattatino (morning), vuoto

-antistress, grasso

-irrinvaciabile (can’t be renounced),  energetica

bianco

regular

fragole della panna

8)

-vaniglia, fresco

-squizita, piccante

-dolce, risveglio (reawakening)

-fondente, bianco

-dolce, buona

bianco

regular

salumi (insaccati)

9)

-buonissimo, fresco

-pessante, gomosa (rubbery)

-noioso, zuccherado,

-delizioso, cremoso

-apiccicoza, gustoza

integrale

regular

la parmegiana melanzane

10)

-freddo, buono

-sofflice, aperitosa

-caldo, fraigrante

-scuro, dolce

-spalmabile, energetica

bianco

regular

nutella

11)
-fresco, gustoso
-napoletna, crooccante (crispy)
-caldo, fragrante
-grasso, marrone
-pericolosa, spalmabile

bianco
normale
cioccolato

12)
-gustoso, dolce
-buona, croccante
-caldo, vengotto
-fondente, latteo
-tropo buona, unica

bianco
normale
cioccolato

13)  -freddo, dolce
-filante (stringy), morbido
-dolce, caldo
-dolce, energetico
-dolce, cremosa

bianco
light
cioccolato

14)
-fresco, estivo (summer)
-buona, veloce
-francese, farcito (stuffed)
-calorico, fondente
-cremosa, zuccheroso

integrale
light
I dolci

15)
-fresco, gustoso
-napoletano, broccante
-caldo, fragrante
-grasso, marrone
-pericolosa, spalmabile

bianco
normale
cioccolato

Italian Males

1)

-rilassante, dolce

-allegra (cheerful), gustosa

-sfizioso, zuccheroso

-rilassante, amaro

-divertente, marrone

bianco

regolare

patate fritte

2)

-dolce, velatado (enrobing?)

-buona, crunchy

-dolce, sciavo

-buono, scuro

-fantastica, morbida

bianco

regular

patate fritte

3)

-estivo (summer), cremoso

-fumante (steamy), saporito

-mattatino, zuccherato

-vitale, fondente

-dolce, marrone

bianco

regular

junk food

4)
-dolce, freddo
-pessante, gustosa
-dolce, sofflice
-goloso, fondente
-deliziosa, calorica

bianco
normale
I dolci

5)
-buono, fresco
-ottima, croccante
-buono, fragrante
-dolce, denso
-credi, spalmabile

bianco
normale
cioccolato

6)
-dolce, squisito
-italiano, napoletano
-mattutino, croccante
-amaro, abbina (good w/ everything)
-cremosa, peccaminosa (sinful)

bianco
normale
cioccolato
7)
-freddo, estivo (summer)
-calda, buona
-a scaglie (flaky), morbido
-fantastico, locale
-spalmabile, dolce

bianco
normale
cioccolato

8)
-gustoso, fresco
-croccante, deliziosa
-mattutino, cioccolato
-speciale, buono
-dolce, cremosa

bianco
normale
formaggi

9)
-fresco, goloso
-soffice, farcita (filled)
-dolce, cremoso
-denso, pastoso (doughy)
-dolce, cremosa

bianco
diet
pasta

10)
-buono, freddo
-saporita, rotonda (round about)
-ripieno (stuffed), croccante
-caldo, dolce
-buonissima, dolcissima

bianco
normale
tiramisu’

11)
-freddo, delizioso
-gustosa, cattiva
-morbido, mattutino
-elegante, ricco
-incredibile, economica

bianco
normale
panino

12)
-arioso (airy), cremoso
-confortante, calda,

-a scaglie, burroso
-indulgente, sensuale
-ricca, unica

bianco
dieta
gelato

13)
-dolce, liscio
-gustosa, soffice
-dolce, morbido
-amaro, fondente
-spalmabile, dolce

bianco
normale
cioccolato

14)
-gustoso, fresco
-veloce, buona
-caldo, dolce
-energetico, calorico
-zuccheroso, fantastico

bianco
normale
salumi

15)
-freddo, buonissimo
-gustoso, pessante
-croccante, dolce
-amare, delizioso
-incredibile, fantastico

bianco
dieta
nutella

American Females

1)

Gelato             -cold, sweet

Pizza               -hot, cheesy

Croissant         -dry, sweet

Chocolate        -delicious, brown

Nutella            -smooth, sweet

Type of Bread white

Type of Soda              diet

Guilty Pleasure           ice cream

2)

-creamy, sweet

-greasy, cheesy,

-French, flaky

-sweet, indulgent

-fat, amazing

whole

regular

ice cream

3)

-sweet, refreshing

-fatty, greasy

-light, plain

-rich, perfect

-amazing, cheap

whole

regular

pasta

4)

-cold, sweet

-delicious, hot

-flaky, sweet

-delicious, rich

-creamy, chocolatey

whole

regular

pizza

5)

-frozen, creamy

-hot, greasy

-buttery, delicious

-dark, yummy

-spreadable, chocolatey

white

diet

chocolate

6)

-frozen, messy

-hot, cheesy

-breakfast, buttery

-hot, dark

-nutty, chocolatey

whole

regular

gin & tonic

7)

-sweet, refreshing

-heavy, delicious

-light, filling

-heavy, indulging

-satisfying, delicious

whole

diet

nutella

8)

-yummy, chocolatey

-cheesy, warm

-crumbly, doughy

-fantastic, sweet

-orgasmic, amazing

whole

diet

chocolate

9)

-cold, delicious

-cheesy, thin

-crumbly, chocolatey

-delicious, tempting

-heavenly, fatty

whole

regular

pasta

10)

-flavorful, creamy

-fresh, chewy

-buttery, flaky

-bitter, rich

-sweet, gooey

whole

diet

chocolate

11)

-fatty, rich

-delicious, savory

-delicate, flaky

-creamy, complex

-thick, sugary

white

regular

chips

12)

-delicious, cold

-cheesy, Italian

-flaky, illegal

-awesome, favorite

chocolatey, oily

whole

regular

Cadbury cream eggs

13)

-delicious, creamy

-ubiquitous, crispy

-French, flaky

-necessary, amorous

-special, Italian

whole

regular

chocolate

14)

-delicious, creamy

-greasy, cheesy

-flaky, buttery

-sweet, rich

-addicting, yummy

whole

regular

French fries

15)
-cold, delicious
-greasy, old forge
-crusty, messy
-addicting, bold
-gross, fatty

whole
diet
chocolate

American Males

1)

-cold, white

-greasy, crunchy

-flaky, buttery,

-sweet, Perugian

-nutty, thick

whole regular

Doritos

2)

-cold, chocolatey

-tasty, hot

-flaky, breakfast

-hard, dark,

-creamy, thick

white

regular

taco bell

3)

-empty calories, filling

-tasty, thin

-messy, flaky

-thick, pure

-awful, disgusting

whole

regular

cookies

4)

-cold, sweet

-personal, pepperoni

-morning, chocolatey

-brown, smooth

-Italian, spreadable

white

regular

ciccioli

5)

-delicious, cold

-amazing, hot

-inexpensive, unique

-smooth, milky

-best, delicious

white

regular

pasta

6)

-sweet, creamy

-delicious, crunchy

-flaky, buttery

-wonderful, smooth

-tasty, breakfast

whole

regular

soda

7)

-delicious, cold

-delicious, convenient

-light, chocolatey

-creamy, sweet

-chocolatey, cheap

whole

regular

ice cream

8)

-tangy, sweet

-savory, greasy

-crisp, light

-robust, mucousy

-velvetty, sweet

whole

regular

fried food

9)

-sweet, delicious

-round, cheesy

-flaky, buttery

-melty, sweet

-chocolatey, smooth

white

regular

cheese

10)

-smooth, sweet

-flavorful, perfect

-boring, unfilling

-great, best

-tasty, brown

whole

diet

chocolate
11)
-creamy, smooth
-hot, cheesy
-fresh, flaky
-rich, bitter
-spreadable, sweet

whole
normal
french fries

12)
-flavorful, awesome
-crispy, flat
-buttery, soft
-messy, dark
-smooth, great

white
normal
cookies

13)
-Italian, cold
-bubbly, red
-crispy, warm
-blocky, awesome
-sweet, rich

whole
normal
burritos

14)
-creamy, tasty
-sliced, greasy
-flaky, buttery
-rich, dark
-smooth, spreadable

white
normal
cookies

15)
-fantastic, sweet
-hot, crispy
-French, unsatisfying
-bitter, hard
-too sweet, popular

whole
normal
Mcdonald’s

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