Copyright 2012, Jeffrey Schrank 1
1. Tasting is Testing
To taste is to test.
Like or dislike.
We are not born liking fruit on the tree of good and evil;
or on any other tree. We learn by tasting.
Only a few taste judgments
seem “built-in,” Or
Infants scrunch their faces
and make escape moves
when tasting bitter or sour.
Infants seem intent on exploring
the world by tasting everything.
Until about two years of age, kids
treat the world as possible food.
The distinction between “food”
and “nonfood” is learned from
parents and cultures.
Around age two or three kids
often become neophobic -- they
show great distrust for new
and/or unfamiliar foods. They
also discover that some things are
disgusting. This makes sense from
the viewpoint of human survival
since it occurs at the age when
choices in what to eat first
emerge. To distrust the unfamiliar
is a protective strategy.
Humans ARE born with a
Of course, it has nothing to do
Babies show a preference for
sweetened water after only a
few hours of life.
We prefer the sweet because we
need sugar to live.
Your blood contains about a
Teaspoon of sugar in the form
Your brain is a three pound mass of
electro-chemical activity that uses a
surprising twenty percent of all
calories you eat. Thinking really is
Only one fuel works to fire those
brain neurons – sugar (specifically,
glucose). No wonder we crave
sweets. Neurons can’t store sugar,
they need a constant supply from
The reason behind our taste
preferences are invisible to us;
buried in the distant past of our
species. You simply enjoy the taste.
PET scan of normal brain.
Eating is our most intimate
exchange with the environment. In
eating we allow the world “out
there” to become part of the self. So
we avoid tasting foods that might
make us disgusting. We fear we
will become what we eat.
You would find a cockroach
disgusting, but you probably don’t
know how it tastes. Disgust is
triggered by the mere idea of tasting
the substance. Your expectation is
enough to trigger disgust.
Volunteers in a an experiment
watched researchers pour ordinary
tomato juice into a clean jar labeled
“red blood.” Even though
participants knew the liquid was
“only tomato juice” they
experienced various degrees of
discomfort in drinking the juice.
Many simply refused. 9
Even food that looks like
something offensive is
Let’s say you are asked to
eat a piece of fudge like
You know it’s just fudge
and that it tastes good.
But that knowledge might
not prevent you from
gagging or becoming
Most people would be uncomfortable or would refuse
to drink soup out of a bed pan, even though they know
it is brand new and sterile.
Disgust is food based but we also apply it in the world of non-food as
well. We taste the world….
Taste is a bit like color. The skin of an apple appears
red, but an apple does not “have” flavor any more than
it “has” red. Taste, like color, only “happens” upon
interacting with your senses. Taste is your perception.
Taste is multi-sensory. A “flavor” is a perception we
construct from taste buds, eyes, nose, and feelings in the
Cook a nice fish filet for
your friends. After they
tell you how good it was,
tell them the “fish” they
enjoyed is snake or eel.
The knowledge of what
they ate might cause real
It’s not so much the fruit
that hangs on the tree that
we taste, it’s the
knowledge of good or
We taste our beliefs and
2. Tasting with your eyes
The flavor we experience is
shaped by our expectations.
One of the clearest influences is
our expectation of how the food
“should look.” Tasting often
begins with the eyes.
During one experiment in the
early 1970s people were served
blue fries and green steak but
ate them in colored lights that
made the food appear normal
in color. Subjects thought the
meal tasted fine until the
lighting was changed. Once it
became apparent they were
eating blue fries and green
steak, some people became ill.
In another study, people
tasted orange juices that
differed only in color
(lighter or darker shades of
orange) and degree of
Given two glasses of the
same orange juice, one a
darker orange than the
other, the tasters judged the
darker colored juice to be
Surprisingly, when given
two glasses of orange juice
that were the same color,
but differing degrees of
sweetness, the testers did
NOT perceive a difference
People who taste test fruit drinks can easily identify cherry,
orange, lime, and grape. But researchers find that tasting while
blindfolded lowers correct flavor identifications to as little as
If instead of a blind taste test, subjects are given drinks with the
colors switched (lime flavor colored orange, grape juice colored
red, etc.) correct identification suffers even more. The perception
of flavor is shaped by color.
When water is colored orange, most people experience an orange
flavor. If an orange drink is colorless, many find it tasteless.
Even the package in which the
food is presented influences our
perception of taste.
Volunteer taste testers rated root
beer in dark glass bottles as richer
tasting than the same drink served
in clear bottles.
Market researchers for 7Up tested
different colored backgrounds on
cans and discovered a yellow
background led testers to report an
unusual “lemony” flavor to the
soda. Those who drank from cans
with a green background noted
additional lime in the soft drink.
The orange of a salmon comes from a diet rich in
orange colored algae. Since farm raised salmon don’t
eat the algae, they remain white like most other fish.
But consumers will not accept white salmon.
Marketers fear they would claim it “doesn’t taste like
So orange food coloring (in the form of beta carotene)
is added to satisfy the color expectations of
In another experiment, subjects drank cherry-flavored
drinks and reported that juices with more red color
tasted stronger and had more “true” cherry taste. The
effect was stronger with senior citizens than with younger
tasters. Food marketers know that people expect cherry
or strawberry flavored foods to be bright red. Omit the
added coloring and consumers complain the food is
Consumers expect American cheese to be dark
yellow, even though that is not its “natural”
The “natural” color of margarine is a pasty white,
so coloring is added to make it appear more like
butter. Butter itself is often colored pale yellow
to fit expectations.
Consumers expect egg yolks to be rich orange.
So chickens are given feed with coloring (often
from marigold petals) to insure the eggs “look”
(and taste) as expected.
Marketers know that consumers judge beef and
tuna as fresh only if it is red. Consumers shun
brown beef or gray tuna even if fresh.
So meat sellers keep beef and tuna red longer
by pumping a gas mixture into sealed packages
called “modified atmosphere packaging.” The
mix includes gases found naturally in air
(carbon dioxide and nitrogen) as well as a tiny
amount of carbon monoxide. Carbon
monoxide helps delay the natural color change
of meat from red to brown.
Retailers defend the process claiming they lose
at least a billion dollars by having to throw
away or devalue perfectly good meat that
doesn’t look red. Consumers suspect retailers
use the process to make old meat look fresh.
Researchers at Cornell University
added titanium dioxide (a bright
white coloring approved for use in
foods) to skim milk. They found
people judged it to be smoother,
better tasting, and higher in fat than
the uncolored milk.
We taste a perception based on
multiple sensory input – color
included. People who say the
“whiter” milk “tastes creamy” are
accurately reporting a perception.
Consumers might say “I don’t want
artificial colors in my food,” yet
they buy those colored foods
because they perceive them as
tasting better. By “giving
consumers what they want” the
food industry reinforces the “color-
3. Feel Influences Taste
Mouthfeel-- the sensation food creates in the mouth--is
a key part of taste. Mouthfeel includes qualities such
as a food’s moisture, gumminess, crispness, viscosity,
slipperiness, brittleness, temperature, and weight.
For example, chocolate has to have the right degree of
“snap,” and ice cream just the right degree of
gumminess. Food marketers know if a food feels
“wrong,” eaters will judge it tastes “wrong” as well.
Dr. Francis McGlone, a neurosceintist at Unilever (maker of
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream) knows something about the brain on
ice cream. He says:
"Flavor is not as simple as the way it tastes. The other senses….can
dominate the way the brain interprets a food. Ice cream activates a
part of the brain known as the orbitofrontal cortex, which is just
behind the eyes and is where emotions are processed. By melting, ice
cream changes its physics and creates contrasts that continually
keep your senses interested.”
In other words, the feel of melting is part of the “taste.”
We often describe ice cream, custard, pudding, or sauces as
having a creamy taste. That “creaminess” is more about how
the food feels in the mouth than about actual cream content.
Studies find people judge foods as creamier when they sense
them to be thick, provide significant mouth coating, are dense
and slow to melt. Cooks and food designers use
starches, thickeners and emulsifiers to help create that
A sauce can taste “creamy”
without actually containing cream.
To say a food tastes “light and
crispy” is to make a judgment
Packaging can change the
perception of a food’s
“crispiness.” Studies suggest that
people biting into potato chips
(Pringles) rate the chips as 15%
fresher when the sounds are
louder, or when the high
frequency components of the
biting sounds (above 2KHz) are
Other studies show we judge
food in noisy packages to be
crisper than the same foods in
We love the mouthfeel of fatty
foods. Fat gives food a
pleasing “body,” and
contributes to a sense of
fullness in the mouth.
We don’t eat over twenty-
eight pounds of french fries
per person each year because
we love the taste of potatoes.
We eat fries, fish sticks, onion
rings, doughnuts, chicken
nuggets, and potato chips
because their high fat content
makes them feel good in the
mouth. They are sensation-
The combination of a crispy outside with a softer
fat/sugar inside is a “melt in your mouth”
sensation found in many processed foods from
fried shrimp to stuffed doughnuts, ice cream bars,
fried fish, toast and butter, chicken nuggets, egg
rolls, machos, and buffalo wings. They are to the
mouth what fireworks are to the eye.
Temperature is also part of
Heat by itself opens the
taste receptors for
sweetness, even when no
taste is present.
Touching the tongue with
a warm or cold probe will
Warming an apple pie can create the perception trigger a taste sensation in
of a sweeter pie.
about half the people.
But letting ice cream melt
completely leaves it tasting
like overly sweet milk.
Taste tests in which
participants are asked to
judge liquids need careful
controls for temperature.
The warmer liquid will taste
a bit sweeter. There might be
more taste difference
between a warm Coke and
cold one than between a
Coke and a Pepsi served at
the same temperature.
We call spicy foods “hot,” but not because of temperature. The heat
we feel from spicy food is not a message from our taste buds. Some
spices activate our pain receptors. We “feel” the pain of spice as heat
and treat it as part of the taste multi-sense.
Capsaicin--the chemical found in chili peppers--produces the illusion
of heat. It might be more accurate to say foods “feel” spicy than that
they “taste” spicy.
Menthol triggers cold receptors in the mouth to create
the very real illusion of coolness.
Neither menthol nor capsaicin actually changes skin
temperature even though they feel warm and cool.
Menthol is made
peppermint or other
Think about spicy foods you’ve eaten and you
might recognize two distinct varieties: one you
feel in your mouth and the other in your nose.
The molecules in chilies and black peppers are
large and heavy – they tend not to escape up our
nose – we “taste” them mainly in the mouth.
Mustard plants (that includes horseradish and
wasabi) release a small molecule when the plant
is damaged (sort of like the plant version of a
skunk), so it easily escapes from the food and
enters the nose.
So you sense a jalapeno in the mouth and wasabi
in the nose but you call both “spicy” or “hot.”
4. Tasting Expectations
MIT psychologists conducted a taste experiment in which they asked bar
patrons to taste a beer they called “MIT brew” – regular beer with a few
drops of balsamic vinegar. In blind taste tests, people preferred the
The experiment used two groups of tasters – one was told about the
vinegar BEFORE they drank the beer, the other group learned about the
vinegar only AFTER the taste test.
Those who knew about the vinegar flavoring rated the beer much worse
than those who learned only after drinking. The belief that vinegar and
beer don’t mix shaped the drinker’s taste perception.
One study asked people to rate the
taste of plain Seltzer water and
Perrier. Researchers found that
people preferred the Perrier when
the waters were labeled, but
showed no clear preference when
the labels were removed.
Other researchers found
strawberry yogurt and cheese
spreads are rated as less tasty
when labeled “low fat.”
Another study found that
describing the protein of
energy bars as “soy protein”
caused eaters to describe the
taste as more grainy and less
flavorful than when the word
“soy” was NOT used. 38
At the Center for Theoretical
Neuroscience at Baylor College of
Medicine , sixty-seven people tried a
blind taste test of Coca-Cola and
Pepsi. About half chose Coke and
But when the subjects were told they
were drinking Coke, over 70% said
Coke tasted better. Magnetic imaging
of their brans showed that when the
tasters knew they were drinking Coke
they used brain areas relating to
memories and impressions that were
not used during the blind taste tests.
The results suggest that the
preference for a favored brand
(Coke, in this case) is shaped by
memories and expectations .
In 1985, Coca-Cola attempted to introduce a “new and
improved” Coca-Cola. Using nationwide blind taste tests
they found that people liked the slightly tweaked “new
Coke” better than both the “old” Coke and Pepsi.
But after rolling out the “New Coke,” people stubbornly
insisted they preferred the “old” taste. Blind taste tests do
not mimic real life. In a lab, tasters judge by taste. In the
real world, we judge by labels and expectations.
The new Coke lacked a bias about how it “should” taste.
Consumers suddenly “tasted the vinegar in the beer”
and decided it was not so good after all.
One clever study asked
children to rate the taste of
carrots, milk, and apple juice.
In one group, the foods were
served in unmarked wrappers.
In the other, the same foods
were wrapped in McDonald's
packaging. The unmarked
foods always lost the taste test.
Study author Dr. Tom
Robinson noted their
perception of taste was
"physically altered by the
branding. Kids don’t just ask
for food from
McDonald’s, they actually
believe that the chicken nugget
they think is from McDonald’s
tastes better than an
identical, unbranded nugget.” 41
Researchers at Stanford and
Cal Tech had people sip wine
while an fMRI machine
measured brain activity.
Volunteers sipped various
wines including the same red
wine twice. For one tasting,
volunteers were told the wine
sold for $5 a bottle (the actual
price), but the second time they
were told it was a $45 wine.
The subjects said they liked
the expensive wine better.
The increased preference was
seen as increased activity in the
prefrontal cortex. The subjects
really did enjoy the expensive
A study gave consumers a choice
among three jars of peanut butter. In
a blind taste test, one brand won
“best tasting” 60% of the time -- a
Next, researchers tested the same
choices but with labels on the jars.
One label was a well-known, heavily-
advertised national brand, while the
other two were unknown brands. In
this test, the peanut butter that won
the original taste test was in a jar with
an unfamiliar label. Would it still win
the taste test?
Nope. This time, 73% chose the
lower-quality spread with the well-
known brand name. Only 20% chose
the high-quality product in the
unfamiliar jar. 43
Psychologists use the term “expectation bias” to
describe our tendency to taste, hear, and see
what we expect.
The orange juice really will taste better if it is
bright orange, the wine will taste more full-
bodied and complex if it costs more. The Coca-
Cola and peanut butter will taste worse from an
unlabeled source than from one marked with a
familiar brand, and kids will find that apples
taste better if they come from a bag with the
McDonald’s logo. We see, hear, taste, and feel
5. Culture shapes tastes
We define ourselves in part by what we
taste. People who eat like us are
probably “Us” while those who eat
strange and disgusting foods are clearly
By the time we reach age eight our
culture has shaped our tastes. But culture Ground horsemeat
to the individual is like water to a fish.
We see cultural differences in others
easily, but the influence of our own
culture often remains invisible. We feel a
bit uneasy in the presence of people who
eat things we do not consider food.
We spend millions to buy food for cats,
dogs, and horses but consider it nearly
inhuman to buy cats, dogs, and horses Cooked dog
Tastes change. A hundred and fifty years ago Americans didn’t drink
much fresh milk (most milk was consumed as cheese or butter), most
apples were sour and consumed in liquid form as hard cider. Soft
drinks were more medicine than refreshment, many vegetables (raw
tomatoes, for example) were considered risky, bananas were an exotic
curiosity (in 1899, Scientific American ran an article showing how to
peel a banana), yogurt was nearly unknown in the U.S., and ethnic
food was considered unhealthy or disgusting. Chicken was a food
for special occasions.
At the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of
1876, curious fair goers could try a banana wrapped in
tinfoil for ten cents. It was quite a novelty.
Milk has long been viewed as a
dangerous food. 46
Four and twenty blackbirds baked
in a pie is not merely a line in a
nursery rhyme – it’s a recipe.
Blackbird pie? Did people really
eat song birds. Yes. To discover
why we eat mostly chicken and
ignore most other birds requires a
bit of history.
Many cultures eat all
sorts of small birds. A
bird on a stick is
common street food in
as an ordinary food is
a relatively modern
In 18th and 19th century America,
dining on a bird meant a young
pigeon. These “squabs” were
not the pigeons we see in today’s
urban downtowns, nor were
they carrier or homing pigeons
used as our first airmail.
They were a completely
different species – a wild bird
called the passenger pigeon,
named after the French word for
“passage” meaning migratory.
Their numbers during migration
hundreds of years ago strains
the belief of today’s urban
A flock of passenger pigeons could darken a
Midwestern sky for most of a day. The flocks were so
thick that a single shotgun shot could bring down
thirty or forty birds. Many were killed simply by
swatting at them with wooden bats as they flew over
hilltops or by stringing nets.
When Europeans first arrived in North
America, they shared the “new world”
with about five BILLION passenger
pigeons – a number nearly equal to the
total of ALL birds today in the United
Fast growing east coast cities needed
food and passenger pigeons made for a
convenient supply. On just one day in
1860, over 235,000 birds were sent east
from Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 1869,
Van Buren County, Michigan shipped
seven million, five hundred thousand
birds back east. If drive-up windows
existed in the 19th century, they would
have offered fried squab, pigeon nuggets,
and songbird stew.
With such an abundance there seemed no need to conserve.
But the “tragedy of the commons” worked its inevitable
math and Americans shot, clubbed, and ate the squabs into
extinction. The last passenger pigeon in the world died in a
Cincinnati zoo in 1914.
The last wild Passenger Pigeon was shot by a 14-year old boy in Ohio in 1900. The last Passenger
Pigeon was nicknamed “Martha” after Martha Washington and died in 1914 in the Cincinnati zoo.
We didn’t we eat lots of chicken before the 1950s because chickens were
more valuable for their eggs. A good eating chicken was a seasonal
luxury costing as much per pound as a good steak.
The USDA and meat producers eventually learned how to produce a
tasty and reasonably priced chicken – but only after years of breeding
trials and errors. These “chickens of tomorrow” had more meat, larger
breasts, and thicker legs than their scrawny ancestors.
Only with the advent of mass scale processing in the 1950s did
chicken become a constant presence on our culture’s unwritten
menu. In 1945, per capita chicken consumption was only five
pounds yearly, by 1960 it was over 25 pounds.
The taste of today’s chicken would be unfamiliar to most of our
great grandparents. The taste of a culture can change with time.
6. How do we taste?
The function of taste and smell is to detect chemicals. We speak
of tasting “food,” but what we really taste are the chemicals.
Taste is chemistry on the tongue. Flavor is perception in the brain.
A “chemical free” food would be tasteless. Vanilla contains over two
hundred fifty chemicals, coffee over eight hundred. That’s why they
have complex yet “heavenly” tastes
The actual organ of taste is called the "taste bud." Each taste bud
(you have nine or ten thousand in your mouth) contains between
fifty and one hundred fifty receptor cells. Receptor cells live for
only a week or two before they are replaced by new ones.
Each receptor in a taste bud responds best to one of the five basic
tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and savory.
Savory (often called by its
Japanese name umami) is
triggered by the amino
acids glutamate and
aspartate in cheeses,
vegetables, meats, and
MSG. Umami is a pleasant
“brothy” or “meaty” taste. Glutamate is naturally present in a many foods,
especially mushrooms, beef, cabbage, and tomatoes.
It was recognized as a basic A pizza (tomato sauce, sausage, cheese, mushrooms)
is high in glutamate content. It’s very savory.
taste only in 1985.
Our first experience with
umami is breast milk. It
contains about the same
amount of umami as broth. 57
Sweetness signals easy calories – fast energy. We are genetically
predisposed to seek sweetness -- it’s not a result of poor
parenting. You can detect sweetness if only one part in two
hundred is sweet – that’s about one teaspoon of sugar in two
gallons of water.
Today, about a third of the world's table sugar is from
beets. If you grew up before the 1980s, you grew up
eating mainly cane and some beet sugar.
A bag of “pure sugar” could be made from cane or beets.
Not only do they taste the same, they are chemically identical.
But if you grew up after the mid 80s, you probably
ate more sugar from corn. Beginning in 1980, large
beverage companies began using corn syrup to
sweeten soft drinks.
Today, corn sweetener is widely used in foods and
beverages. Look on ingredient lists for corn syrup,
corn sugar, or high fructose corn syrup – sometimes
shortened to HFCS.
Many believe cane sugar tastes better than corn sweetener. Yet
blind taste tests usually show no clear preference. But
remember that taste is not merely about detecting molecules.
Flavor is a perception based on our beliefs and expectations. If
we believe “natural," or “organic,” or “cane sugar” is better, it
will taste better
Some beverage makers replaced corn syrup with cane or beet
sugar (sucrose) and explained the change as about “delivering
Kosher Coca-Cola does not
Babies show a preference for salty
water – humans need salt to live.
Blood, sweat, and tears are all salty.
Blood holds about as much salt as
We can taste salt in water at a
concentration of a teaspoon in
ten quarts. Salt sensitivity
declines with age. At age
60, double that con-
centration is needed to be tasted.
Almost every fluid in your body
contains salt. Your body holds
about seven tablespoons of salt.*
You lose salt constantly and cannot
store it, so you need salt every day.
Popcorn, pretzels, and potato chips taste so salty because the grains
of salt lie mainly on the surface of the food. They taste salty but
contain less sodium than many canned soups or even some baked
goods. Two slices of white bread have about 270 milligrams of
sodium, the same as a 1.5 ounce bag of potato chips. An ounce of
corn flakes contains about twice as much sodium as a strip of bacon.
What we call a “sour” taste is
our ability to sense acidity.
We need to sense sour to keep
us away from foods that might
upset our body chemistry and
destroy cells in our gut. The
abilities to taste both bitter and
sour seem clearly protective
Tasting acidity also helps us
judge the ripeness of food.
Fruit, for example is less
than when sweet. 64
In our evolutionary
past, bitterness signaled a
possible toxin. That explains
why you can detect bitterness
in only one part in two
Both salt and sugar neutralize
or mask bitterness. A little bit
of sugar DOES help the
medicine go down.
Grind the center of the cacao bean and you
get a thick liquid known as unsweetened
chocolate. It’s also called bitter or baker’s
chocolate. Sugar has been used since the
16th century to cut the bitterness.
People vary in their ability to taste. One in four is a “supertaster.”
Supertasters have more taste buds per square centimeter. About 25% are
non-tasters, and the remaining 50% fall between. “Super tasting is inherited,
much like having freckles, curly hair, or being right or left handed.
Supertasters often find dark, leafy greens (broccoli, brussels sprouts,
cabbage) too bitter and grapefruit too acidic. They experience hot spices,
sugar, citric acid and sodium chloride as more intense. They are less likely to
smoke because of the bitter taste of nicotine, and avoid the bitter taste of
caffeine in coffee or blunt it with cream and/or sugar. Non-tasters find
tastes less intense. They are often easier to please in food choices.
The sense of smell accounts for as much as 80% of flavor.
Without a sense of smell you would find it difficult to tell the
difference between coffee or tea, red or white wine, grated apple
and grated onion. Our sense of smell makes an apple taste like an
apple rather than a pear or turnip. If your smell is impaired (by a
cold, for example), food tastes bland, but you can still sense the
four basic tastes. You could sense a jelly candy is sweet, but you
could probably not tell lemon from orange.
You think of smell as entering
your nose from the outside –
sniffing the air.
But most of the odor involved in
tasting works from the inside
out – it’s called retronasal odor.
Odors enter your nasal passage
through the back of your mouth
and rides the air you exhale or
swallow. You don’t consciously
inhale these odors, so you do not
experience them as smells – they
are simply part of the flavor.
Our own feelings are part of our brain’s construction of taste. Our
ability to taste diminishes when we feel stressed or anxious.
Taste is not constant during a lifetime. How food tastes changes
according to our mood and even with passing emotions. If we feel
better, food tastes better. Food eaten with friends, soft lighting, and
an attractive table setting will really taste better than the same food
eaten in a lunch room while dreading an upcoming test or meeting.
If we taste what we expect, what is the effect of growing up eating so
many foods with artificial colors and flavors? Do kids learn from
experience that “orange” is the taste of a frozen orange dessert, and cherry
that sweet flavor found in bottles of red juices?
Could kids today grow up never learning what a real orange or cherry
tastes like? Given a real cherry and expecting the taste of artificial cherry,
might they decide the real thing tastes “weird” and reject it because it is
unfamiliar and contrary to expectations?
After all, what tastes best is what you’re used to, even if it comes from a
factory instead of a farm.
We use the appearance heuristic in making quick judgments – “if it quacks like a duck….” That often means an image equals the objects. Two things that look alike are thought to share the same properties. A voodoo doll that looks like a person becomes equivalent to that person. Or fudge that looks like feces is as disgusting as feces. We know the laws of sympathetic magic aren’t real, but we still FEEL disgust.Check out Paul Rozin’s article in Cultural Psychology: Essays on Comparative Human Development , edited by Rozin and Nemeroff (1990, Cambridge University Press).Rozin, Millman, Nemeroff (1986) in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 703-12 is about the fudge eating experiment. Also “..most students were disinclined to put in their mouth a fake vomit, clearly made of rubber, in comparison to their willingness to put in their mouth a flat rubber sink stopper of about the same size
See Rozin, P.,L. Millman, and C. Nemeroff. 1986. “Operation of the Laws of Sympathetic Magic in Disgust and Other Domains.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 50: 703-712.
Note: We replace tastebuds less frequently as we age. A baby’s mouth has more tastebuds than the mouth of an adult.Apple pie photo: Creative Commons. Dan Parsons.
Photo: public domain. Wiki commons
The most complete research on the topic of taste and color I could find on the web is: Does Food Color Influence Taste and Flavor Perception in Humans?Charles Spence & Carmel A. Levitan & Maya U. Shankar & MassimilianoZampiniReceived: 3 September 2009 / Accepted: 8 February 2010 / Published online: 9 March 2010 # 2010 Springer Science+Business Media, LLChttp://www.springerlink.com/content/e63115247k563511/fulltext.pdf. In the actual experiment, the fries were green and the steak blue.Picture: Creative Commons. FotoosvanRobin
Study on color and taste in Journal of Consumer Research, March 2007. “Taste Perception: More than Meets the Tongue.”Philipsen D.H., Consumer age affects response to sensory characteristics of a cherry flavored beverage. Journal of Food Science, 60:364-368, 1995. Notes on yogurt and cake from J. Delwiche, The impact of perceptual interactions on perceived flavor. Food Quality and Preference 15 (2004) 137-46. Available online at www.elsevier.com/locate/foodqual.Orange juice photo: Rick Audet from San Francisco, USA
See DuBose, C.N., Cardello, A.V. & Maller, O. (1980). Effects of colorants and flavorants on identification, perceived flavor intensity, and hedonic quality of fruit-flavored beverages…..Journal of Food Science, 45, 1393-1399.
In another study, subjects tasted coffees from three different colored containers but did not know the coffee in each was identical. 85% labeled the coffee in the red and dark blue containers as rich and full-bodied, while the coffee in the light yellow container was rated as lacking in flavor. Consumers expect coffee packages to be in dark, bold colors, not flowery pastels.7Up story from Arrive, Nov/Dec, 2007, Good Things Come in New Packages,” by Michelle Meyer.
Titanium dioxide is also used in house paint, toothpaste, cosmetics, pills, candies, and tattoo ink.Milk glass, creative commons. Stefan Kühn.
Chocolate pix: By Simon A. Eugster. Creative Commons.
Guacamole in public domain, custard Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Pringle’s image by Geoff Lane Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.
Photo by Jon Sullivan. Public domain.Doughnut photo by Muu-karhu. Creative Commons License
Photo: BiswarupGanguly. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
Note on cooling and heating the tongue from Sex, Sleep, Eat, Drink, Dream by Jennifer Ackerman.
Different peppers produce differing degrees of heat. They can actually be measured by something called a Scoville Scale. A mild bell pepper scores a 0 Scoville Heat Units. Poblanos at 1000 to 1500, jalapeno peppers between 2500 and 5000, cayenne at 3,000 to 50,00, and the habanero at 100,000 to 300,000 scoville heat units. Note: black pepper does not have capsaicin – it has piperine. Cayenne pepper and jalapenos do.
Lee, S., Frederick, D., & Ariely, D. 2006. Try it, you’ll like it. The influence of expectation, consumption, and revelation on preferences for beer. Psychological Science, 17:1054-58.
Journal of Consumer Research, August, 2008.Note that in all these studies not all the people were “fooled” all the time.Seltzer water study by Nevid, 1981. Energy bars Wansink, Park, et al, 2000. Low/full fat study Bowen, Tomoyaso,Anderson, et al, 1992. Beer study Allison and Uhl, 1964.“Sensory Suggestiveness and Labeling: Do Soy Labels Bias Taste?” by Brian Wansink and Se-Bum Park. Journal of Sensory Studies 17:7 (November 2002). Also reported in Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink.On the soy taste: This did not happen for all eaters. Expectation of soy for many people is associated as a food for animals not people. Others think of soy as something for vegetarians or “hippies,” These biases influence taste. As soy becomes more “mainstream” as a food, people’s perception of its taste will change. Pouring water picture: Walter J. Pilsak, Waldsassen, Germany. Creative Commons License.
^ Samuel M. McClure, Jian Li, Damon Tomlin, Kim S. Cypert, Latané M. Montague, and P. Read Montague (2004). "Neural Correlates of Behavioral Preference for Culturally Familiar Drinks" (abstract). Neuron 44 (2): 379–387. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2004.09.019. PMID 15473974.Brain MRI in Public Domain. NASA.
Perhaps, if the “new Coke” were introduced without an announcement, most existing Coke drinkers would not have noticed since they taste their expectations, while non Coke drinkers might have been won over by the improved taste.
The McDonald’s study involved 63 low-income children ages 3 to 5 from Head Start centers in San Mateo County, Calif. The research, appeared in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (August, 2007), and was funded by Stanford and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Baba Shiv, a professor of marketing who co-authored a paper titled “Marketing Actions Can Modulate Neural Representations of Experienced Pleasantness,” published online Jan. 14, 2008 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.Wine glass photo by Christina Snyder. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.In another study, Shiv demonstrated that people who paid more for an energy drink (Red Bull), were able to solve more brain teasers than those who paid a discounted price for the same product.
The peanut butter study is described in GergGigerenzer’s book Gut Feelings (Viking-Penguin, 2007 ).Original study in Journal of Consumer Research – dates?
Horsemeat pix: Photograph taken by Richard W.M. Jones and released under the GFDL.Dogmeat pix: Public domain.
1878 Harper’s Weekly cartoon by Thomas Nast depicting a ghoulish figure dispensing “swill milk” to an unknowing mother and her children. Cows who subsisted on this rotten mixture lost their teeth, developed skin ulcers, running sores, and rotted tails that fell off. Hundreds of infants died each year from drinking cow’s milk that had become spoiled, adulterated, or contaminated with bacteria.
Image from copy in Schorger, 1955
(Source: Clive Ponting's 'A Green History of the World', Penguin Books, 1992. Also John Audubon’s Birds of America, Volume V)
(Source for chicken consumption figures: The Warmest Room in the House)For more information on the history of changing tastes in meat, see Putting Meat on the American Table by Roger Horowitz (2006, Johns Hopkins University Press)Chicken coop picture: Public Domain.
Coffee beans creative commons license. Photo by Sage Ross.
Other research suggests there are other receptors for fatty acids and some metals. There are still others who believe that the entire concept of basic tastes is flawed and feel that the evidence supporting this idea is based more upon language limitations than on perceptual or physiological ones. For a more extensive treatment of the existence of basic tastes, you might want to take a look at: Delwiche, J. F. (1996). Are there 'basic' tastes? Trends in Food Science and Technology, Vol. 7, pp. 411-415.
On umami in breast milk see: Agostini C, Carratu B, Riva E, Sanzini E (August 2000). "Free amino acid content in standard infant formulas: comparison with human milk". Journal of American College of Nutrition 19 (4): 434–438. PMID 10963461.
Pix: Creative Commons. This is the creation of Tomomarusan
© Copyright Hugh Venables and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
For more on corn sweeteners versus sugar see “Dark Sugar: The “Decline and Fall of High-Fructose Corn Syrup,” from Slate, 4/28/2009.“Some flavor experts are skeptical since high-fructose corn syrup is calibrated to mimic the taste of cane syrup sucrose back in 1980s when it became the standard soft drink sweetener. A 1996 study found that fructose, glucose, and sucrose were indistinguishable as long as doses were matched for sweetness intensity. Other research suggests that the taste of fructose has a quicker onset while the taste of glucose builds slowly and tends to linger.”Despite the enthusiasm for sugar-sweetened Coke and all-natural iced tea, informal taste tests have yielded ambiguous results. In a street survey conducted by the Toronto Star, most passers-by preferred regular Coke to the Passover version; several folks described the latter as tasting like aspartame. A similar confusion beset the Snapple testers at Fast Company: One described the HFCS version as tasting "more natural" while another dismissed the all-natural version for its "chemical taste.”
*The bonds between the sodium and the chloride in table salt are weak and do not stay bound when dissolved in water. So you don’t really have table salt in your body at all – you have sodium and chlorine floating around. If you could “re-assemble” the sodium and chlorine, the total would be about seven tablespoons.
Image of papillae in public domain.
See original study: The JournalofNeuroscience, December 6, 2006, 26(49):12664-12671; doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3459-06.2006
"If people never or rarely taste fresh raspberries, then they begin to accept the artificial flavor, because that is what they've been exposed to," said Barbara Klein, professor in the department of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "When given a choice between fresh and artificial raspberry flavor, I suspect they might choose the artificial if it is more intense. There is an expectation of that intensity."