Tasting with Sounds

posted in: Research

It’s now an accepted fact that our sense of taste is intrinsically linked to our sense of smell. But scientists now think that it can be heavily influenced by what we hear, too. Time to reach for Sounds of Skillet Bacon Vol. 2. The Smithsonian reports a new study published in the journal Food Quality and Science which investigated the relationships between music and taste. In a blinded experiment, 20 tasters reported that high-pitched music made toffees taste sweeter compared to low music—even though they were exactly the same candies. Elsewhere, a series of experiments carried out at the University of Oxford asked volunteers to match wines, milk and other foods with particular musical notes. They found that that sweet-tasting desserts tend to be matched up with high notes, while deeply savory dishes tend to be paired with brassy, low-pitched sounds. Charles Spence—an expert on multi-sensory experiences—has found that it’s even possible to sway our experiences of taste. Speaking to The Smithsonian, he explained: “We’ve shown that if you take something with competing flavors, something like bacon-and-egg ice cream, we were able to change people’s perception of the dominant flavor-is it bacon, or egg?-simply by playing sizzling bacon sounds or farmyard chicken noises.” So, what’s happening? Are we primed by advertising? Is it something to do with the way parents offer up food? Actually, it’s unclear to all these researchers why the effect exists. Which probably means you shouldn’t worry about it too much—just stick on your favorite falsetto-laden track and shovel candies down your throat. They’ll taste all the sweeter for it. [The Smithsonian]