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How to trick your brain to make food taste differently

Posted by Georgina Orso on

The human brain is incredible, but it can be tricked.

We’ve blogged before about optical illusions and tactile illusions, but did you know that you can change your brain’s perception of how food tastes, all by fooling your senses?

Research shows that we rate food as tasting different depending on the colour of the crockery on which it is served. In one experiment people rated a pink strawberry mousse as tasting 7% sweeter, 13% more flavourful and 9% more enjoyable when it was served it on a white plate instead of a black plate.

Credit: Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, Agnes Giboreau and Charles Spence

And studies have also shown that people rate food as tasting sweeter if it’s served off a round plate than a more angular plate.

In research by Charles Spence and colleagues, an experiment of more than 3,000 people showed that the fruitiness of a red wine could be enhanced by around 15% simply by putting on some red lights, rather than regular white, or green lighting. 

Visual stimuli can also have an effect on your culinary preferences. Research shows that people who define themselves as liking strong coffee drink more under bright lighting. And increasing the brightness of the lighting can also nudge people toward ordering spicier chicken wings.

But it’s not only information from our eyes that change our perception. New gastrophysics research shows that food tastes better if we eat with heavier cutlery - and not only that, but people are prepared to pay more for it.

Interestingly, sound also has an impact. Noisier packets make crisps seem crisper and playing tinkling high-pitched music can even bring out the sweetness in food and drink.

So have a think next time you’re hosting a dinner party and make sure to think about the brain’s ability to process multisensory information.

For more research in this area head to The Conversation or The Guardian.


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