Food psychology research - influence of our senses on the taste and smell of food

Joined Jun 24, 2018

A small introduction: I'm an applied psychologist from India. One of the applications I came across is in a personally loved area of research. Cross-modal correspondences. This area is about how the information coming from one sense affects the perception from another sense.

In one of my articles, I looked at the sense of smell and taste in the dining experience. This is how sound, touch, and sight affects the taste of food.

Here is the article: Food psychology research

if you are interested in the original research, the links are provided.
Never till I did this I realized how deep the holistic experience of eating food and drinking is! I'm sure many of you have valuable insights on how people perceive the food they get.
Joined Jun 24, 2018
Ah yes, it is Prof. Charles Spence's research that I got into. He is a genius.

Should read Gastrophysics. Should read it. Furry Cutlery sounds hilarious. Gotta read. Thanks.
Joined Dec 30, 2015
Good topic! Thank you Aditya.
And Tony, thank you too. I borrowed your highly-colored food idea and made it opposite. The hypothesis was that whitish food would lead to a 15% reduction in eating. Alas, it didn't work. Cheers! o_O
Joined Jun 24, 2018
I started researching and reading up as I work with children with multiple and severe learning difficulties. They may also have physical disabilities, sight, hearing etc Because many cannot communicate its difficult to known how they experience food. The only real guide we have is if they want more!

I have moved from the typical school multi-coloured plates to plain white so the food is clearly identified against its background. I use a number of key flavours across the whole menu, sweet, sharp, salty. We also use low tempo background music and limit natural light in the dining hall. Food is as highly coloured as possible, tomato sauces are reduced down and coloured with roasted red pepper, beta carotene is used to make yellows really yellow. Green veg is blanched and refreshed so it is bright green.

I also specified very heavy cutlery and clear polycarbonate beakers for drinks which (although only water) are brightly coloured.

Also, we allow personalisation of food. Each meal will have several optional accompaniments which the children choose themselves. Maybe by pointing or just taking what they want. It then becomes their meal.

By playing around meal uptake has gone from 65%-85% in a couple of years.

This is excellent. Thanks for sharing such an insightful application and kudos to you for doing this. I'm certainly going to revisit the specifics you have mentioned to generate hypotheses. :)
Joined Feb 28, 2018
Really cool stuff Aditya! Really interesting to think about the synestesic features of tasting food that a lot of people don't think about - the correlation between color and sweetness.

What do you think the practical applications of this information for restauranteurs could be?
Joined May 5, 2010
I find this topic fascinating. Having cooked for over 48 years now, I have found that people respond to colors, sounds, and sites.
If for one example I have found that coffee tastes better in brighter colored cups, but only in the morning.
An evening cup of coffee after dinner tastes best in a darker colored cup.
Joined Jun 24, 2018
Really cool stuff Aditya! Really interesting to think about the synestesic features of tasting food that a lot of people don't think about - the correlation between color and sweetness.

What do you think the practical applications of this information for restauranteurs could be?
Thanks, well, to be honest, I don't know how to implement it. I tried pitching to a restaurant once and we tried working on cost reduction of raw materials. Can investing in certain shapes of mugs or plates reduce the sugar requirement, etc. The restaurant didn't follow up, so I am lost on the implementation bit.

However, I do think that this can be used in special situations like improving the dining experience in schools like 21TonyK did. There may be a way such results can be used for increasing repeat customers. But I didn't think about implementation after the first project halted.

Maybe chefs here can think about it in practical ways.
Joined Nov 15, 2012
Absolutely wonderful Indian restaurant I recently ate at used a lot of stainless with brass trim to serve in, really appealed to me for the Tika masala and vindalou. I have a $185 steak knife, it is integral to the process for me. Same knife also doubles as prep knife for some things.
Joined Jan 25, 2013
i know micky-dee spent a ton on chemicals so that veg oil would smell like the tallow they used to use for frying potatoes. one that surprised me until i used it at home was serving the same amount of food on a 10" plate and a 12" plate. folks with smaller plate seemed to be full after finishing a filled plate. when given a larger plate, they would want second helpings.
Joined Oct 9, 2008
Heston Blumenthal has done a lot of work in this area. His dish "Sounds of the Sea" is one celebrated result.
Joined Jun 24, 2018
Hey all, can I share some of the stories you've told me in a public presentation? I'll keep your names anonymous if you'd like or if it is useful for you, I'll mention your names.

It's a presentation via a discord server which will later be hosted on youtube. It's a talk hosted by Ohio State University. November 2nd.
Joined Oct 16, 2018
i have always been fascinated with psychology as it relates to the sense of 'quality' of food:

presentation of 'poor' quality food in a fine dining establishment elevating peoples' sense of quality, or, alternatively, presenting gourmet food on cheap disposable wares degrading their sense of quality.

another is the use of adjectives to change peoples' sense of quality: i recall watching an experiment where they asked people how much they would pay for a pizza based on its description. Started off at ~$8 for a personal 10" pie; they kept adding various popular catch terms and adjectives to see how high people would go: "hand-stretched; artisan; organic; heirloom; grass-fed;" or started using foreign terms or intellectual-sounding synonyms, etc etc etc

by the end, people were offering $30 for the same pie.

and of course there's 'cost' experiments (Wine being the most infamous), in which people think that the cost they pay has a bearing on perception of quality
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