A bittersweet symphony: Systematically modulating the taste of food by changing the sonic properties of the soundtrack playing in the background
Crisinel AS., Cosser S., King S., Jones R., Petrie J., Spence C.
We report an experiment designed to investigate the consequences of manipulating the pitch of the background auditory stimulation on the taste of food. The participants in the present study evaluated four pieces of cinder toffee while listening to two auditory soundtracks, presented in a random order. One soundtrack was designed to be more crossmodally (or "synaesthetically") congruent with a bitter-tasting food whereas the other soundtrack was designed to be more congruent with a sweet-tasting food instead. The participants rated each sample using three computer based line scales: One scale was anchored with the words bitter and sweet. The second scale required participants to localize the taste/flavour percept elicited by the food (at the front vs. back of their mouth). The third scale involved participants giving a hedonic evaluation of the foodstuff. As expected, the cinder toffee samples tasted while listening to the presumptively 'bitter' soundtrack were rated as tasting significantly more bitter than when exactly the same foodstuff was evaluated while listening to the 'sweet' soundtrack instead. These results provide the first convincing empirical demonstration that the crossmodal congruency of a background soundtrack can be used to modify the taste (and presumably also flavour) of a foodstuff. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.