Friday Factoid: The Psychology of Pumpkin Spice

Rebecca Girlinghouse, MA

WKPIC Doctoral Intern


It’s fall, and you know what that means….PUMPKIN SPICE EVERYTHING! And if you’re anything like me, you may pretend you could take it or leave it, but inside you are rejoicing.  Pumpkin spice has become hugely popular since the release of Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2003 (Chou, 2013). The question, though, is why? Well, psychology may have some of the answers to this perplexing question.


First, the flavor is only around for a short period of time each year.  Because pumpkin spice is only around for a limited time, it makes it more appealing to us, and so we may feel compelled to order it, even if it is not our favorite flavor.  If pumpkin spice was around all year, it is likely the hype would decrease over time (Kurtz, 2015).


Second, everyone else is doing it.  Although we live in a country that tends to value individuality, most of us are hard wired to want to fit in and be accepted on some level.  Therefore, when we see others—especially our friends, co-workers, and family members—doing something, such as sipping pumpkin spice, we want to do it, too (Lewis, 2015).


Third, items with pumpkin spice tend to be filled with sugar and fats.  These are two of the body’s main sources of fuel.  We are hard wired to be attracted to and enjoy these types of foods so that we seek them out and keep our bodies functioning (Lewis, 2015).


Fourth, it is nostalgic.  Because the flavor is only out during the fall and has the aromas and flavors we often associate with the season, it reminds us of all the things we love about fall such as crisp air, cozy sweaters, multicolored leaves crunching beneath our shoes, Halloween, and the coming of the holiday season.  These things make us feel nostalgic, a feeling that has been shown to comfort us, make us feel more connected, and brighten our mood (Lewis, 2015).  With all the good, fuzzy feelings it evokes, who wouldn’t want pumpkin spice?



Chou, J. (2013). History of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Retrieved from


Lewis, J. (2015). The psychology behind the pumpkin spice fad. Retrieved from


Kurtz, J. (2015). The psychology of Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Retrieved from

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