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.

  2. Pingback: How Sounds and Words Affect Taste | Bookmarks

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