Would this taste different eaten from a black plate?
A report today on the BBC news website lists food experiments that can alter out perception of how the food tastes. The shape of the plate, the colour of the crockery, music and even smells wafted into the air around us can alter our perception of the food we eat.
From the BBC:
What can you taste when you swirl a mouthful of malt whisky around your mouth? Peaty flavours, honey, sea salt? Talk to any whisky drinker and they’ll be happy to discuss at length.
But it turns out that not all you are getting is down to your taste buds – or even your nose.
If you drink a glass of single malt in a room carpeted with real grass, accompanied by the sound of a lawnmower and birds chirping, and all bathed in green light, the whisky tastes “grassier”.
Replace that with red lighting, curved and bulbous edges and tinkling bells and the drink tastes sweeter.
Best of all, creaking floorboards, the sound of a crackling fire and a double bass bring out the woody notes and give you the most pleasurable whisky experience.
That’s all according to an experiment run for drinks giant Diageo – an experiment in a new field that is fascinating the food and drink industry.
Professor Charles Spence studies ‘neurogastronomy’ at Oxford University.
“Neurogastronomy is based on the realisation that everything we eat or drink is processed by our senses,” he says.
“We see it, we hear it, we smell it, we taste it, we feel it. All those senses come together.”
If it’s so easy to alter out perception with what we see and what we smell could that be used to alter out perception about other things, things more important than our enjoyment of food?
Experiments have proved that our perception of medication changes with colour. Remember the red blue/blue pill scene in The Matrix? The red pill would allow Neo to wake up, the blue pill would put him to sleep. Most sleeping tablet packaging is blue, including over the counter products such as Nytol and Sominex. Often the medication itself is blue. In tests sugar pills were dyed different colours and subjects were told they were sleeping pills. Those taking the blue pills reported falling asleep faster and sleeping for longer than those taking orange pills.
Yale University conducted ‘priming’ tests that subjects were told were language proficiency tests. Subject groups were given either a selection of neutral words s and sentences to study and repeat. Others were given subjective words and sentences to study and repeat.
On leaving the venue those who had been given subjective words behaved in line with the words they used. For example, those who had studied and repeated words connected with elderly people walked slower than they had on entering. Those whose words denoted cold fastened up their jackets and so on.
This is known as priming, implanting something into our minds, priming us to subconsciously think about a subject not of our choosing. It’s similar to supermarkets putting plants and fresh flowers near the entrance. We walk in, see a delightful, sweet smelling display of fresh flowers, our mind associates the store with freshness, wholesomeness, and this affects the amount of fresh products such as meat and fish as well as vegetables and bread that we buy.
Lighting is often altered in supermarkets to make the produce appear more vibrant in colour, we associate the vibrant red of sweet peppers with freshness, the bright green cabbage would not sell if it looked insipid or yellow edged.
This is from Phillips lighting:
Fresh Food. The clear choice for LED Fresh food is the main attraction in any supermarket – and the fresher it looks the better. Now is the time to make the switch to LED lighting for general lighting, coolers & freezers and fresh food. Not only will it enhance your store experience and have a positive effect on the environment, the payback time is also extremely attractive. Make the switch today.
The chart showing the effects of their lighting on fresh food is too big to transfer over, but you can see it here. The sell different colours of white lights for different applications. The rose white light enhances the colour of meat. Champagne is better for cheese and bakery goods as well as wine. Frost white enhances the sparkle of ice that items like fresh fish are displayed on.
Our views can also be changed by the way something is worded, or the words used when we are being spoken to. A study sent out a few hundred surveys to people before an election. Half received a circular asking “Is it important to vote?”. The other half received a circular that said: “Is it important to be a voter?” 14% more of the second group turned out to vote on election day.
We are all aware that subliminal messaging occurs in everyday life, I rather liked this example:
(For those of you still half asleep look at the letters on the eye chart)
Okay, the example above is set up to illustrate the point, but be it a small phone advert on a concert ticket, or words displayed inside another frequently seen word, we are all exposed to it.
So colour, smell, words, and presentation can all alter our perception without us even realizing it. We would be foolish to think this has passed by the governments of the world without them noticing. It hasn’t. Governments play mind games with their citizens all the time, these are just a few more that they can add to their list.
How easy it would be to establish a curfew without question if a harmless noxious smell was released into the air and residents were told there had been a chemical leak? How simple it would be to control a city using such tactics?
Food for thought indeed.
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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.