Taste Of Food Affected By Ambient Sounds, Study Says
A study released this week in the journal Food Quality and Preference claims that background noise is a determining factor in how food tastes to people.
So no matter how well-made the food you prepare is, sometimes the elements just work against you.
The report says that background noise changes how crunchy foods are interpreted as being, how intense the flavor is, and how enjoyable eating the food is for the consumer.
To perform the experiment, participants were asked questions about food flavors and textures (specifically crunchiness, saltiness, and sweetness) while eating, listening to background noise, and rating the flavors of the food.
Subjects found food crunchier and less sweet and salty in situations with louder background noise.
This is particularly true on airplanes, which have large amounts of white noise, said researcher Andy Woods from the University of Manchester’s and Unilever’s labs.
Many airline food providers add a lot of extra flavoring to their food to combat the perception of blandness.
"There's a general opinion that airplane foods aren't fantastic," he said. "I'm sure airlines do their best - and given that, we wondered if there are other reasons why the food would not be so good. One thought was perhaps the background noise has some impact," he told BBC News.
Commercial airlines aren’t the only ones to do this.
"NASA gives their space explorers very strong-tasting foods, because for some reason they can't taste food that strongly - again, perhaps it's the background noise,” Woods said.
Interestingly, diners seemed to enjoy their food more when they were listening to background noise they found pleasing (a principal that appears to explain the use of atmospheric music in restaurants).
Researchers plan to explore the relationship of pleasing sounds and pleasing tastes further.
"The evidence points to this effect being down to where your attention lies - if the background noise is loud it might draw your attention to that, away from the food," Dr Woods said.
To reach reporter Lindy Tolbert, click here.