Pumpkin Spice Latte fanatics, explained

Korin Miller
Pumpkin Spice Latte fanatics, explained

We’re technically still in the thick of summer, but Starbucks has brought its fall favorite, the Pumpkin Spice Latte, back early, on Tuesday. And people are completely freaking out about it online, with #PumpkinSpiceLatte trending on Twitter since early morning and Instagram flooded with snapshots of people posing with their coveted beverages.

So what gives?

“There is a novelty about something new. We are wired to crave new experiences,” licensed therapist David Klow, founder of Skylight Counseling Center in Chicago and author of You Are Not Crazy: Letters From Your Therapist, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Yet we are also accustomed to familiarity and long to create a sense of routine in our lives. When something combines a sense of newness with familiarity, it merges these two drives within us.”

The allure of the drink may also be about the changing seasons, licensed clinical psychologist Kelly Tonelli tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Starbucks has created a connection for people between fall and the PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte),” she says. “Its arrival harkens the beginning of fall and all it represents. It isn’t the PSL specifically but what is still to come.”

Of course, the taste of the drink itself comes into play, too. “Taste is very powerful and rewarding,” Kevin Gilliland, a clinical psychologist and executive director of Innovation 360, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It kicks our pleasure center, especially if it involves sugar and the fats in creamers or milk. Add caffeine to that mix and it’s a trifecta of food pleasure.” The actual flavor of pumpkin spice may be mentally linked with a person’s memories, too, Gilliland says. “We may associate it with friends or family and memories from last year and anticipation for this year,” he says. “All of that can come together to lift our mood just a little. In a small way it releases a bit of the feel-good brain chemicals that lift our mood.”

As for all the social media love, it’s all about being part of something bigger. “Being a part of a collective group that shares a common love can be very affirming,” Klow says. “Whether it’s a sports team, a political cause, or even a drink craze, people often like being a part of a crowd that is passionate about something. It gives us a sense of community.” Tonelli agrees. “It isn’t about a latte but about being part of something,” she says.

Adds Stephen Graef, a psychologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: “The Pumpkin Spice Latte can take on a fanaticism of its own. It became a cool seasonal thing for people to do. Many people don’t want to be left out on the fun and want to comment on something so many people can relate to.” To wit…

There were, of course, some naysayers online. Several people pointed out that it’s still hot and sticky in many parts of the country, which makes downing a steaming-hot beverage kind of unappetizing. But their comments have been overwhelmed online by the sheer volume of people professing their love.

If you hate the PSL, sorry: You have a long road ahead of you. It usually stays in stores throughout the fall season … which hasn’t even begun yet.

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