Pumpkin Spice (and All That Good): We Love It Because There’s Brain Science Behind It

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

It may still be summer on the calendar, but at cafes, bakeries and outlets across the country, fall is already in full swing thanks to the presence of pumpkin spice in a plethora of products.

At least $500 million is spent each year in the United States on pumpkin-flavored items, according to advertising publication Ad Age.

So why do we love this particular flavor so much?

PUMPKIN SPICE SEASON: 10 RESTAURANTS THAT HAVE ALREADY RETURNED PUMPKIN SPICE

Turns out we like to remember fall and the warm feelings of family, home and nostalgia the season brings — and our brain associates those warm feelings with that particular flavor, psychologists and researchers say.

Starbucks started the pumpkin spice craze in 2003 with the introduction of its Pumpkin Spice Latte, said psychologist Matt Johnson.

Starbucks started the pumpkin spice craze in 2003 with the introduction of its Pumpkin Spice Latte, said psychologist Matt Johnson.
(Stock)

Matt Johnson, a Based in Boston psychologist specializing in the application of psychology to marketing, shared insights into neuroscience and marketing around our love of this particular flavor.

“Flavour is so closely tied to the onset of fall and the wholesome, nostalgic vibes of family and changing leaves,” he told Fox News Digital by phone.

PENNSYLVANIA MAN FINDS RARE PURPLE PEARL INSIDE CLAMS AT DELAWARE RESTAURANT: REPORT

Johnson is the author of two books, “Blind Side: The (mostly) hiddenways marketing reshapes our brains” and “Branding that Means Business”. He is also a professor of psychology at the Hult International Business School in Boston and a lecturer at Harvard University.

Pumpkin spice flavoring does not actually contain any real pumpkin, according to Verify.com.

Pumpkin spice flavoring does not actually contain any real pumpkin, according to Verify.com.
(Stock)

Noting that Starbucks started the pumpkin spice craze in 2003, with the introduction of his Pumpkin Spice Latte, Johnson said the drink was “an instant hit” and became “the most successful seasonal drink of all time”.

Starbucks has retained its Pumpkin Spice Latte (also known as PSL) as a seasonal drink — “one of the critical elements to its success,” Johnson said.

Johnson said we have a window into “the neuroscience of taste” when we take a closer look at our love of this particular flavor.

CALIFORNIA MAN BREAKS WORLD RECORD FOR MOST GHOST PEPPERS EATEN IN 1 MINUTE

“We are very, very visual creatures, but our sense of taste is one of our weakest senses,” he said.

Our sense of taste is actually “very impressionable,” Johnson continued.

MAKE CHICK-FIL-A MENU ITEMS AT HOME WITH THESE COPYCAT RECIPES FROM TIKTOK

He explained that “we don’t taste objectively – we almost ‘hallucinate’ with our taste buds”.

The associations between fall and pumpkin spice are built in the medial temporal lobe, which we can think of as the “associative network” of the brain.

There have been plenty of experiments testing the accuracy of the sense of taste in humans, Johnson said. “For example, we really can’t tell wine [distinctions] almost as good as we think,” he shared.

Associations between fall and pumpkin spice are built in the medial temporal lobe, which we can think of as the brain’s “associative network,” Johnson explained. The medial temporal lobe organizes the concepts we have learned, he said, and how they are connected.

Advertisements for pumpkin spice remind some that Halloween and Christmas are right around the corner.

Advertisements for pumpkin spice remind some that Halloween and Christmas are right around the corner.
(Stock)

So when either idea – pumpkin spice or fall – is activated, “it will automatically trigger the other, because they share such close proximity in the medial temporal lobe.”

He added that marketers “have succeeded in associating autumn with pumpkin spice to such an extent that we can’t really have one without the other – the association impacts the perception of it. -same”.

DINNER BREAKFAST RECIPE: TATER TOT NACHOS WITH EGG, BACON AND JALAPENO

Interestingly, pumpkin spice contains no actual pumpkin.

“To me, the emergence of pumpkin spice every year is the first signal that fun family time is just around the corner.”

“There is no pumpkin in pumpkin spice per se,” Ethan Frisch, spice expert and owner of sustainable spice trading company Burlap and Barrel, told Verify.com, a website dedicated to helping the public distinguish between true and false information.

At least $500 million is spent on pumpkin-flavored items in the United States, according to advertising publication Ad Age.

At least $500 million is spent on pumpkin-flavored items in the United States, according to advertising publication Ad Age.
(Chris Borrelli/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Frisch noted that it’s more of a blend of four to five spices: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and allspice.

While cars can line up at drive-thru counters across the country for pumpkin spice hot drinks and treats, an ordinary American woman who doesn’t care for pumpkin spice tells Fox News Digital that she still likes to see the signage of products that contain it.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR LIFESTYLE NEWSLETTER

“Even though I don’t consume any pumpkin spice products, I love seeing signs advertising them because it means fall is coming,” said Carole Purcell, of Columbia, Maryland.

“It reminds me that my favorite holiday, Halloween, will be here soon, and after that, Christmas.”

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

She added, “For me, the emergence of pumpkin spice each year is the first sign that fun family time is just around the corner.”

Leave a Comment