Aleteia

Our pumpkin spice obsession stems from a yearning for tradition and family

PUMPKINS
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You’re probably well aware that it’s pumpkin spice season again. The flavor isn’t just sold in specialty coffees and donuts, but cereals and candies and candles. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone soon invents a pumpkin spice-scented laundry detergent or perfume/cologne.

Well, today CNN has an article exploring our culture’s love of everything pumpkin spice. And wouldn’t you know, its popularity stems from an innate yearning we experience for tradition and family.

Here’s an excerpt:

Each fall, as leaves turn golden and the crisp autumn air carries the scent of pine, Catherine Franssen awaits her husband to bring home the latest pumpkin spice-flavored concoction he has discovered at the grocery store…

…Franssen called the current trendiness of pumpkin spice “a fantastic example of the psychology of consumer behavior and fads.” She knows that the sweet smell and tantalizing taste of pumpkin spice can trigger a nostalgic emotional response in her brain and the brains of many other consumers, she said.

After all, “this spice blend has been used in popular baked goods for quite some time, but mostly in home-baked goods,” said Franssen, who wrote a 2015 blog post in the Huffington Post about the science behind pumpkin spice.

“Since these are popular spice combinations, it’s very likely we would have encountered some or all of them combined in a favorite baked good in a comforting situation, like a family gathering, early in life,” she said. “It’s not just the pumpkin spice combo, but that we’ve already wired a subset of those spices as ‘good’ very early in life.”

In other words, if the pumpkin spice blend — or a synthetic version — that has been added to your favorite food item reminds you of a baking pumpkin pie at grandma’s house, then it likely did its job…

…”in the Western world, the aroma of pumpkin spice immediately transports people to all the warm and friendly times associated with pumpkin pie, holiday gatherings, families, celebrations, treats, sweets … things that childhood memories are made of,” Shelke said. “This is why pumpkin spice latte is trendy.”

Read the whole thing here.

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