Background Noise and Taste Perception

It has been suggested that the physiological effects of pressurisation are responsible for the blandness of in-flight airline meals. However the real reason behind “diminishing gustatory food properties” (food tasting rubbish) while 32,000 feet above sea level could be a lot simpler: the background noise.

A study conducted by Unilever R&D and the University of Manchester has shown that the background noise experienced while flying reduces the perception of food properties not related to sound (saltiness, sweetness, etc.) while simultaneously increasing the perception of food properties related to sound (e.g. crunchiness)–in other words, the background noise we experience while flying could be responsible for the food we eat being tasteless but crunchy.

On possible future applications of the findings, the BBC reports:

“We are still at an early stage of proceedings and this is a relatively small study to really draw definitive conclusions from […] but they suggest that the retail sector could well tailor their choice of food for a given environment.”

Also in the group’s findings there is the suggestion that the overall satisfaction with the food aligned with the degree to which diners liked what they were hearing – a finding the researchers are pursuing in further experiments.

2 thoughts on “Background Noise and Taste Perception

  1. Ian

    Quote: “but they suggest that the retail sector could well tailor their choice of food for a given environment.”

    I don’t want to sound pessimistic but I believed that the reverse will in all likelihood take place; that an environment will be tailored audiowise for a given choice of food — namely cheap and tasteless.

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