The perception of flavor is the most multisensory of our everyday experiences, according to a new paper in the journal Cell that shows how easily our palates can be fooled.
In many cases, the trickery is explained by hard-wired or learned flavor expectations versus the actual eating experience.
"The latest research by psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists increasingly reveals the complex multi-sensory interactions that give rise to the flavor experiences we all know and love, demonstrating how they rely on the integration of cues from all of the human senses," author Charles Spence of the University of Oxford's Department of Experimental Psychology wrote.
One example is to serve guests hot chocolate out of an orange mug. A study led by Betina Piqueras-Fiszman of the Polytechnic University of Valencia found that this color of mug or cup fools drinkers into thinking they are drinking a very intense, richly flavored chocolate.
While she and her team are not sure why, it likely has to do with the color contrast between orange and dark brown, and how that visual information influences our expectations of flavor.
Major chocolate bar companies have experienced something similar after changing the color of their packaging. Many customers subsequently complained, saying that the "new" recipe for the product was terrible. In fact, the companies hadn't changed the recipe at all, only the packaging color.
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