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The sound of food plays are significant role when it comes to our judgment. We judge the freshness of carbonated beverages; the sound of a soda can cracking open, the gas escaping from the container the fizz the bubbles make as you pour it. The crunch you hear when you bite in to a carrot, the sharp sound that’s produced when you cut in to raw vegetables. People use sound to judge the readiness of foods like popcorn or the sizzle a burger makes on the grill. There is no denying that sound is a part of our food experience.

I think multisensory perception will be a new food science where psychologists and scientists will work together to influence the freshness and taste of our foods. Research has been underway at the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at Oxford University in understanding how our brains process the information from each of our sense and how that triggers our food experiences. I searched the Internet to see if there has been any published discoveries. This is what I found:

The article, “Boffin gives eaters sound advice,” is about Prof Charles Spence, the head of the cross-modal research laboratory at Oxford University’s department of experimental psychology, who conducted a study where volunteers ate crisps of varying freshness while wearing headphones.

The Study: As they ate, the sound of the crisp breaking was altered by a computer and then played back to see if it changed their perception of the crisp’s freshness. By making the crunch sound louder, Prof Spence found that volunteers rated the crisps 15 per cent fresher. He proved that people believe crisps, even ones that were stale, taste better when they have a crunchy sounds.

As my research continued I found that the sound of your food is not the only aspect that can affect your perception. Public Radio International had a segment on how music can also influence how people’s food tastes. Prof. Spence conducted a study to find out if you could use music to influence what people taste and smell

The Study: Volunteers ate pieces of toffee while listening to music with “sweet” sounds (high-pitched notes/piano) or “bitter” sounds (low notes/brass instruments). All the toffee were the same, but when the volunteers rated sweetness or bitterness they all perceived them as different.

In the online article, Daphne Maurer, a developmental psychologist at McMaster University in Canada, attributed this phenomenon to a condition called “Synesthesia”, which causes a person’s senses to overlap in unusual ways.” For example, people with synesthesia might see different colors when listening to different musical notes. Maurer said the new study of music and taste suggests that we all have a touch of synesthesia, though “it rarely influences our conscious perception.”It may influence our sub-conscious perceptions, however.”

My take on this: So, we already know that taste and smell play significant roles in helping us enjoy our food. But now studies are being done on how much music can influence our sense of taste.

The volume of crunch can strengthen the perception of a food’s freshness and certain types of background music can enhance ones food experience. So maybe this is why I hate airline food? Or maybe eventually it will be  possible to build a soundtrack that will enhance any meal.

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