The brain translates unfamiliar or “odd” experiences into something unpleasant.
Have you got a favourite cup? Or how about a fork or spoon that you think makes everything taste better? It’s okay don’t be ashamed, you’ve got science on your side. Some research psychologists at the University of Oxford in the UK have proven that the type of cutlery people use dramatically affects how they enjoy their food.
The study consisted of feeding a large cohort of volunteers plain Greek yoghurt from three different types of spoons: a white plastic one, a darker coloured plastic one and a heavier white plastic one. The researchers assessed the impact of changing the properties of cutlery (size, weight, colour and shape) on the volunteers’ ratings of the food’s taste (sweetness, saltiness, perceived value, and overall liking of the food).
“The results revealed that yoghurt was perceived as denser and more expensive when tasted from a lighter plastic spoon as compared to the artificially weighted spoons,” explain the researchers in their paper published in the online journal Flavour.
The scientists think that the reason why cutlery affected the participant’s perception of food has to do with the way our brain processes familiarity. The white spoon was a typical utensil that everybody has used before, whereas the other two spoons were uncommon and somewhat unexpected. They think that the participant’s brains would have processed the unfamiliar sensation of using these spoons as an unpleasant one.
So the next time you go out for dinner, don’t be embarrassed if you want to take your own cutlery—you’ve got science to back you up!
There are sensors in our mouth that detect basic tastes -sweet, bitter, sour and umami. Then the brain processes and interprets these tastes and links them with emotions and memories. Neuroscientists are only now beginning to unravel the complexity of how the brain allows us to perceive taste.