Why You Love Pumpkin Spice So Much, According To Science

'Tis the season of pumpkin spice. As summer comes to a close, iced lattes turn into steaming mugs and autumn's signature drink prepares for a resurgence. Starbucks' pumpkin spice latte has been around since 2003, though pumpkin pie spices — namely, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger — have been hallmarks of fall even before the chain's claim-to-fame.

According to ​​Better Homes & Gardens, pumpkin spice originated from islands in Southeast Asia, not far from Indonesia. Nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, cloves, and ginger came from these "spice islands" and by the late 1700s, the spices had made their way to America.

Pumpkin spice has since become a common ingredient in pumpkin pie recipes, though the blend doesn't actually contain any pumpkin. Still, we easily associate pumpkin spice with its namesake — and just as easily correlate the blend with fall. It's this very connotation that may be responsible for the spice's popularity, at least according to one psychologist.

Pumpkin spice goes hand-in-hand with fall

According to psychologist, Matt Johnson, our brains have learned to associate pumpkin spice with fall and vice versa (via Fox News). "The flavor is just so closely tied to the arrival of fall and the nostalgic, wholesome vibes of both family and the leaves changing," Johnson told the outlet. Consequently, our medial temporal lobes — the parts of our brains known for associations — have learned to connect the two ideas. When we think of pumpkin spice, we think of fall.

This connection lends itself to — and perhaps even results from — pumpkin spice marketing. Advertisements like Starbucks', hone in on a quintessential autumnal aesthetic. Think pumpkin picking, crunchy leaves, apple orchards, and cozy fall days. Top that off with a to-go cup of pumpkin spice, and you've channeled the ultimate fall mood.

Whether or not you associate pumpkin spice with the crisp months, it's undeniable that the spice's season is fast approaching. Although it's August, Starbucks just announced the return of pumpkin spice to its menu, though if coffee isn't your thing, you can try pumpkin spice in any of its other forms. Enjoy it in a pie, in homemade scones, or even in pumpkin spice liqueur. Spicing up your drink of choice is certain to keep you warm on the chilliest of autumn days, whether you're curled up in a turtleneck or frolicking through an advertisement-worthy orchard.