Sweet talker? US presidential candidate Barack Obama eats ice cream in Pennsylvania. (AFP file picture)
New Delhi, Oct. 11: Science may have solved that great mystery of Bengali life: why are Ghotis sweet-talking and Bangals outspoken?
Simple, its because Ghotis ó those native to western Bengal ó add a liberal dash of sugar to everything they cook, a habit that earns them no end of scorn from the eastern, chilli-loving Bangal.
Sugar doesnt just make your food or drink sweet, it makes you sweeter too, Dutch and American psychologists have found out.
Bengalis, of course, always knew this ó remember how grandmas insist that a baby be given a spoonful of honey immediately after birth so that it learns to speak sweet words?
The researchers now have a scientific explanation: sweet food or drinks raise blood sugar levels, supplying the brain with the fuel needed to suppress outspoken opinions.
Psychologists at the University of Amsterdam and the Florida State University have found that people with lower glucose levels are more likely to use stereotypes when describing others. And, if they are also highly prejudiced people, they are more likely to make derogatory statements.
Mathew Gaillot of the University of Amsterdam and his colleagues have reported their findings in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
In their experiments, participants who had received either lemonade laced with sugar or a drink with a sugar substitute were shown a picture of a young man and told his name was Sammy and that he was a homosexual.
Then they were asked to write for five minutes an essay about what Sammy does during a typical day. The participants also had to complete a questionnaire to assess their attitudes towards homosexuals.
When the scientists analysed sugar levels and the responses, they found that people who had drunk the sugar beverage were less likely to use stereotypes in their essay than people who got the drink with the sugar substitute.
Also, those who received the sugar drink used fewer prejudicial statements in the essays describing Sammys day.
The data suggest that low blood glucose impairs self-control, the researchers said. Several studies over the past three years have linked low blood glucose to impaired mental processes, negative interpersonal behaviour and poor self-control.
When people engage in the act of trying to control public expressions of prejudice or the use of stereotypes, they consume the energy required for self-regulation, the researchers said in their report.
Self-control, they believe, depends on processes that consume glucose as an energy source. When blood glucose level is restored to normal, people regain the ability to control their conscious responses.
Ensuring that people have sufficient energy for self-control may help to improve their ability to control the public expression of prejudice and the use of stereotypes in their day-to-day life, Gaillot and his colleagues said.
Their next study could try to find out whether Ghotis are likely to speak with less prejudice against Bangals than vice versa.