Eating is a fundamentally multisensory experience: we don’t just eat our food, we also see it, smell it, and hear ourselves chewing it.
However, perception of non-food components of the dining experience can also influence flavor perception.
For instance, desserts are rated as sweeter if they are presented on a white vs. black plate, and exposure to loud noise reduces affective food ratings.
The latter result is particularly relevant to the bad reputation of airline food. Air cabins are unusual environments where food is routinely consumed under extreme noise conditions.
In recent work published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, Yan and Dando (2015) examined the influence of the extreme noise conditions encountered during flight on the five basic tastes.
Participants rated sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami solutions on a scale from ‘barely detectable’ to ‘strongest imaginable’.
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