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Monday, March 24, 2014

Can Sound Affect How Our Food Tastes?

food and music image
As we all know, music and sound can affect our mood and our health, but did you know it could also influence how our food tastes as well? There's been a lot of study lately into what's known in sensory science as "modulating taste," with a lot of very intriguing results.

The Crossmodal Laboratory at Oxford University fed volunteers toffee while playing them high and low frequency sounds, then asked them to rate the taste on a scale from sweet to bitter. They found that the high notes enhanced the sweetness and the low notes the bitter (Try this the next time you have a coffee. It works.).

They then took the research to the next level and went to a London restaurant where they served their patrons chocolate-coated bittersweet toffee that came with a phone number. When the customers called, they were instructed to dial 1 for sweet and 2 for bitter, where they were played high and low pitched sounds. It worked every time.

The food/sound relationship seems to be the final frontier for restaurants, who obsess over so many other things but overlook something so obvious. That said, always on the forefront of culinary science, Ben & Jerry's ice cream is actually considering a sonic range of ice-cream flavors that come with a QR code that allow the eaters to access the appropriate sounds via their phones.

By the way, the one place that this doesn't seem to work is in-flight during an airplane trip. The loud background din has been found to suppress saltiness, sweetness and overall enjoyment of food. No wonder that grilled-cheese sandwich doesn't taste that good during a 100dB playback.

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1 comment:

Rand said...

Fascinating. You know of course that anyone savvy enough to use this information will begin to turn their concerts into the same experience as your typical baseball, football games.

In between songs you'll hear the wandering ice cream and hot dog vendors shouting out 'Get your red hots, get your red hots here!';-)


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