The five senses of hearing, taste, smell, touch and sight play an integral role in the dining experience – probably more than you realize!
In a recent study, researchers set out to determine if there was an association between hearing and taste. Participants of the study ingested chocolate twice, unaware they were the same chocolate, while listening to a “creamy” and then a “rough” soundtrack. The researchers hypothesized that specific soundtracks would alter the perceived texture of chocolate. After chocolate consumption with diversity among soundscapes, participants filled out a questionnaire based on their palate perception. Perhaps surprisingly, results showed that individuals rated chocolate as more “creamy” when listening to the “creamy” soundtrack.
Another study researched differences in the sound that food makes while being consumed and how it affects taste perception. The researchers set out to determine whether the sound of biting into a potato chip altered perceived “freshness” and “crispness.” After eating potato chips, participants were instructed to complete a questionnaire about the freshness of the chips. Interestingly, results showed that chips were rated as fresher with increased decibels.
When it comes to smell, it has been predicted that humans can smell anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 odors classified as floral, fruity, spicy, resin, burnt, and putrid. It has been proposed by that up to 95% of what we taste is truly olfactory. Research suggests odors have the potential to enrich the palate of sweetness and suppress sour taste. One study had participants smell various odors consisting of water chestnut, lychee, and non-food odors prior to ingesting plain crackers and mineral water. The questionnaire that subjects filled out afterwards revealed that food-based odors heightened the professed sweetness of the test meal.
When it comes to touch, sensory cues from childhood play a key role in willingness to eat fruits and vegetables. Play activities for preschool aged children that involve touching fruits and vegetables are positively correlated with tasting offered items. Additionally, infants are more likely to be accepting of vegetables if they are able to feel the food item prior to consumption.
As for sight, researchers have proposed that the popularity of sharing food images via social media increases exposure to food, therefore, leading to an increase calorie consumption. “Visual hunger” is defined as neural, physiological, and behavioral response due to an unwarranted stimulation to food imagery. Although research tends to focus on calorie-rich foods, seeing healthy images can potentially encourage stimulus to improve nutrition if there is increased exposure to nutritious foods. As technological advances become even more widespread, it is important to note what role “visual hunger” will have in health. Color and packaging are another significant part of relating sight and eating. It has been found that the color red on utensils is associated with a decreased intake versus the colors blue and white. In a study testing the difference in emotional response to sweeteners, it was determined that when given a packet with brand name and packaging there was increased satisfaction.
The five senses extensively contribute to sensations of food items. Whether it be hearing, taste, smell, touch or sight, there is an impact on what you are eating. Next time you have a meal, pay attention to your surroundings and prepare yourself for a five senses experience!