What music makes coffee taste better? What soundtrack should accompany red wine?
Oxford University psychologist, Charles Spence, who works with top chefs including Britain's Heston Blumenthal and Spain's Ferran Adria, says our enjoyment of food depends on a range of sensory responses. He says all the senses - taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound - combine to contribute to our enjoyment when we eat and drink.
Prof Spence was behind the laboratory experiments that led to the creation of Blumenthal's signature dish, "the sounds of the sea", at his British restaurant The Fat Duck. The dish is a delicate seafood creation with a twist - diners are provided with a set of headphones to listen to seaside sounds like crashing waves while eating. Some diners were moved to tears by the experience.
Prof Spence's laboratory team played sounds of the sea to people eating oysters, while other diners listened to generic restaurant noises or more obtuse farmyard sounds including clucking chickens.
"We were able to show that people rate the oyster significantly more pleasant when they have the sounds of the sea in the background," Prof Spence said from Australia, where he is attending an international pain conference, Neurodynamics and the Neuromatrix.
Crisinel, A. S., & Spence, C. (2010). A sweet sound? Exploring implicit associations between basic tastes and pitch. Perception, 39, 417-425
Shankar, M. U., Levitan, C., & Spence, C. (2010). Grape expectations: The role of cognitive influences in color-flavor interactions. Consciousness & Cognition, 19, 380-390
Zampini, M., & Spence, C. (2004). The role of auditory cues in modulating the perceived crispness and staleness of potato chips. Journal of Sensory Science, 19, 347-363.
In : Taste