- Arts & Literature
- Science & Technology
By Jonathan Tomlin
Oxford researchers have found that the sounds we hear while eating and drinking affect how we taste food and drink.
The study, led by Professor Charles Spence of the University’s Department of Experimental Psychology, assessed the relationship between the sound that Pringles crisps make and their perceived freshness.
Participants in Professor Spence’s experiments were asked to bite into 180 Pringles of varying freshness, while the crunch that each crisp was changed electronically. The results showed that people rated Pringles as tasting 15 percent fresher and crisper when the crisp sounds were made louder.
Spence has also been collaborating with Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck restaurant to create ‘The sound of the sea’. The dish combines a plate of oysters with the opportunity for diners to listen to a seaside soundtrack via a pair of iPod headphones placed inside a seashell on the table.
Blumenthal told Square Meal magazine in 2007: “We ate an oyster while listening to the sea and it tasted stronger and saltier than when we ate it while listening to barnyard noises, for example.”
The soundtrack of the dish is combined with shellfish juices which are made to look like the foam of waves in the sea.
As Spence explains: “Taken together, these results suggest that our perception and evaluation of food and drink depends not just on the taste, smell, sight, touch and sound of the food itself, but also on the packaging, and even on the environment in which those foods are eaten.”
But Spence said that claims by winemaker Aurelio Monte that serenading maturing wines with music improves their quality so far lac scientific evidence. Other research has also found links between the type of music played and the satisfaction gained from a particular wine.
The Paul McCartney classic ‘Live and Let Die’ is recommended to bring out the full flavours of a Cabernet Sauvignon, whereas if you are planning to sip a glass of Merlot, you are advised to couple it with Jose Gonzales’ soothing ‘Heartbeats’.
Dr Adrian North, based at the Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, has supported this research with similar observations. Consumers in a supermarket alcohol section were far more likely to purchase French (than German) wine when French accordion music was playing over the tannoy. The pattern of sales was, however, reversed when German music was played instead.
Luka Boeskens, a 1st year PPEist, commented: “I’ve recently been taking part in synesthesia experiments in my free time, which trace a link between colours and numbers, but this is taking it to a whole new level.
He continued: “I’ve always wanted to taste my music collection; it seems pretty natural to me. Listening to The Libertines is like ordering a proper, greasy Pukka Pie, and Pink Floyd is a dish of poached veal and stuffed asparagus.”