In watching too much cooking shows, the likes of Master Chef and Top Chef, I’ve grown accustomed to the style and techniques those chefs perform to perfect their dish and save them from the cut. One thing I’ve noticed from them, is that in cooking, it’s not just the taste or the aroma that matters. Aside from adding in the necessary herbs, spices, and other seasoning, they make sure that the colors pop and that the texture complements the dish. They do all these to enhance its taste. Through their food, they try to win over the gustatory, olfactory, visual and tactile senses of those meticulous chef judges.
Just like those judges, all those senses are activated whenever I am savoring my food. For a food enthusiast like me, I appreciate those dishes which are neatly presented with nicely contrasting colors. I also enjoy those food that perfectly stimulate the walls of my mouth with its crispy and crunchy texture. Of course, its taste and aroma are what sells me out to the food. For me, all these qualities affect my eating experience. But are they the only things that affect my perception and appreciation of the food? Is sound not a factor in all these?
Apparently, sound does play a part in our food perception as explained by Woods and his colleagues (Woods et al, 2011). In their study, Woods et al have designed two experiments to assess the effects of background noise on the perception of food saltiness and sweetness, food crunchiness and food liking.
In the first experiment, participants were asked to assess a foodstuff, that is either crunchy or soft, in terms of sweetness, saltiness and liking while subjected to quiet and loud background noise. For the second experiment, the same procedure was done but slightly modified by asking the participants to report the crunchiness of the food, aside from its perceived flavorsomeness and liking. Also, the relationship between the liking of the background noise and the liking of the food was determined.
From the two sets of experiments, three different effects of noise on food perception was observed. First, noise decreases the perceived intensity of food attributes. Relative to quiet background noise, the reported sweetness and saltiness of the food are reduced while listening to loud background noise. Noise was also found to enhance the intensity of sound-mediated food cues. With noise on the background, food was perceived more as crunchy. Lastly, the liking of the noise was found to be correlated with the liking of the food.
These findings have solidified how much food experience involves a crossmodal perception. All our senses, from the sense of taste, smell, touch, sight and hearing, interact to affect our perception of the food that we take in.
This study has given me an idea on how I can modify and enhance my food experience. The next time I eat my favorite herb marinated chicken, I’m thinking of reducing the volume of the radio next to me for me to be able to savor the real tang of rosemary, thyme and sage. This would also prevent me from going overboard by sprinkling in more salt to my already tasty dish. Or maybe I can listen to that song that’s always on loop in my mp3 player while savoring my food. Speaking of, maybe you would also like to hit that play button below while you munch on your favorite dish.
Hope you’ll enjoy your food more!
Wood, A.T., Poliakoff, E., Lloyd, D.M., Kuenzel, J., Hodson, R., Gonda, H., Batchelor, J., Dijksterhuis, G.B., & Thomas, A. (2011). Effect of background noise on food perception. Food Quality and Preference, 22, 44-47.