Sound Most Definitely Affects The Way Food Tastes And You Can Test It For Yourself

Often, when talking about taste in relation to the other senses, smell is described as being the most intrinsically linked. So strong, our sense of smell is able to conjure distinct memories and also informs much of the way food tastes to us. But in a 2014 study, researchers found that sound could be equally as influential over the way we perceive food to taste. So, grab your headphones and a cup of coffee because we, my friend, are about to do some #science up in here.

In a collaboration with Oxford university and the Fat Duck restaurant, sensory branding and design agency The Condiment Junkie undertook a research project called Bittersweet Symphonies.  What was found was that found flavour perception can be modulated – making something taste bitter, and then taste sweet – purely by sound. They put forth that through understanding the relationship between sound frequencies and taste, one is able to embed sweet or bitter characteristics to background soundscapes, music, advertising, online audio and even packaging.

In order to provide proof that sound has a direct influence, not on the way food tastes, but rather on the way we perceive it to taste, the study had a series of sounds created to represent the five tastes (sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami) and tested them with a number of volunteers. What they found worked best to demonstrate the affect of sound on taste was to listen through headphones while drinking coffee or eating something that has a similar blend of both bitter and sweet notes. Just don’t pick pretzels like I did because that won’t work.  

By changing between the sounds below as you taste, you should be able to notice a difference in the balance of flavour and possibly where the sensation of taste is located in the mouth. The end results suggested that high-frequency sounds enhance the sweetness in food, while low frequencies bring out the bitterness.  

It explains a lot about why airplane food is inevitably terrible. Because of all the the background noise from both fellow passengers and the plane itself, saltiness, sweetness and “overall enjoyment of food” is suppressed. That combined with not being able to smell a damn thing up there makes it even less desirable.

Image: drinkbai