Sound and colour may influence flavour

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London, May 31 (UNI) Ice cream tasting like biscuits, chicken giving flavour of potato chips. It's not just the smell, but colour and sound too can change the flavour of food.

Previously it was thought that taste and smell were the only human senses that played a role in experiencing flavour. But now Professor Charles Spence, a sensory psychologist at Oxford University, believes it is possible to change the flavour of food simply by exciting people's sense of hearing and vision.

He has found that the tinkering a food makes while it is being eaten can make it seem crunchier or softer in the mouth.

''For some foods sound is incredibly important, particularly if the food makes a sound itself when it is eaten. With carbonated drinks for example a lot of the fizzy flavour comes from the sound of bubbles popping,'' he said.

Professor Spence has also discovered that simply changing the colour of a food can influence the way it tastes. He found that by changing the colour of a drink to a deep red colour, it is possible to make it taste up to 12 per cent sweeter than it really is.

''Deep red colours have strong associations with the ripening of fruit and the sweetness that comes with that. The colour orange also has strong flavour associations to the degree that just changing the amount of orange on the packaging can increase the acidic flavour,'' the researcher said.

Playing sounds of the seaside while diners are eating can make them detect seafood flavours while the sound of clucking chickens or sizzling bacon brings out the taste of eggs or bacon.

''We have also looked at the crispiness of crisps and biscuits and found that by boosting certain high frequency sounds when volunteers bit into them, we could make them taste crunchier and they became softer if we dampened those frequencies,'' Professor Spence added.

Many companies are now employing neuroscientists to help them develop new tricks for altering the flavour of their products.

Dr Francis McGlone, lead neuroscientist for Unilever, believes the change in texture that ice cream undergoes in the mouth as it melts is part of what makes it so enjoyable.

''Sound and colour also alter the cognitive perception and with that information, we can combine those insights to find ways of making foods more enjoyable.

''Flavour is not just as simple as the way it tastes as all the other senses come into play and some can dominate the way the brain interprets a food,'' he said.

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