Archive for December, 2011

Happiness: A Theory – Tasters and Non-tasters

December 3, 2011

In the world of edibility, human discernment has fallen genetically into two groups: 1. Those who readily perceive bitterness, and, hence, recoil from foods that others find palatable; and 2. Those who do not.  The first group has been called “tasters.”  Their discriminatory palates are associated with survival in herbaceous ecosystems where sensing toxicity is essential.   With civilization and the cultivation of recognizable foods, in many modern cultures, such a talent is simply not required.

In the world of social relations, similarly, some people appear to harbor a sensitivity to the comportment of their peers that stimulates a gag reflex.  Others seem to tolerate a diverse ecosystem, absent a direct insult, taking their alien fellow travelers more or less as they find them.

In the edible world, the lessening of risk with the evolution of agriculture has rendered new forms of culinary pleasure possible.  In the social world, the pacification of human populations may have rendered openness toward our less familiar neighbors a relatively risk-free endeavor.

The question arises:  As we relate to our fellow humans, are we happier as tasters, taking solace from the security our vigilance tends to yield?  Or does happiness arise from a broader palate?