Taste and smell are linked—a fact that becomes clear if you eat your favorite foods while you have a cold. The sense that you might not realize is affecting your palate? Sound. Food podcast The Sporkful recently took a closer look at the illusion of taste during an interview with psychologist Charles Spence, an expert in the relationship between sound and taste.
Past research certainly backs up the notion. A 2004 study found that loud crunching sounds make people think chips are crispier and a 2014 study Spence conducted found that noise impaired people’s ability to taste sweet and sour. After several recent product redesigns for iconic brands like Coca-Cola and Cadbury chocolate, people complained that the new packaging came with a change in taste—though the recipe was the same.
Still don’t believe it? Try this experiment. Take a bite of some dark chocolate (or any other food) and really concentrate on how it tastes. Now do it again, listening to this high-pitched sound while you savor it.
Now listen to a low-pitched sound while you chew:
The first, high-pitched sound should have made the chocolate taste a little bit sweeter, and the second, low-pitched sound should have made it taste a little more bitter. I used M&Ms—the closest thing to the recommended dark chocolate in the office vending machine—and while the bitterness effect was very subtle, the high-pitched sound definitely made the candies taste sweeter.
A trained ear can even tell if food is being chopped properly just by listening:
Hungry for more? Listen to The Sporkful here.
[h/t: The Science of Us]