Updated: Aug 15, 2020
Have you ever thought that music may affect our dining experience and influence our food choices? Well surprisingly, it seems that it can indeed! Some recent studies on marketing concluded that shoppers tend to buy more “junk” foods when exposed to exciting high-volume fast tempo music. They also found that such music can not only dull our ability to taste foods, but also to understand hunger “cues”, and as such may promote poorer nutritional choices and overeating. At the same time, multiple similar experiments showed that upon exposure to quieter calm sounds, study participants were selecting more wholesome products, chewed slower and overall consumed less food…. Isn’t that interesting?
Here is another amusing thing I found out…Apparently, British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal (who happens to be an advocate of so-called "multi-sensory cooking") serves one of his signature seafood dishes with an ipod and pre-recorded “sounds of the sea” to enhance the sensory experience of his customers. In one of his interviews, Blumenthal explained that he was involved in a series of experiments at Oxford University that revealed music (or, rather, sounds in this case) can affect the intensity and depth of taste sensations. Further, if food and sound are match correctly, it will enrich the whole dining experience!
The more I think about it, the more sense it makes, considering that particular sounds can indeed evoke certain memories and associations and thus reflect on our perceptions of food. At the end of the day, our taste buds are “receivers” that send signals to the special area in the brain where we create our final “perception” of the meal. Have you ever thought about why some people love snacking with crunchy roasted bugs, while others find them extremely repulsive? The taste is the same – but it is perceived differently between individuals.
Anyways, I got distracted…so back to the music…! Tempo and pitch also seem to play a role in our food experience. Some studies show that higher or lower pitches can make us sense foods as more or less sweet, sour and/or bitter. While it is unclear why exactly our body reacts to a pitch in this way, it seems a bit more straightforward to me why we are influenced by changes in tempo. Fast beat can elevate blood pressure, tense muscles and often activates the so called “fight or flight” response; therefore, it may explain the decrease in taste sensations and overall slowing of digestion. Apparently, there is also a possibility that fast music can cause us to bite larger pieces, eat more, and make it difficult for the body to perceive hunger/fullness signals appropriately, while slow music will do the opposite, as we unconsciously try to chew in sync with the slower tempo, and end up eating less overall! So complex and so fascinating, isn't it? What do you think about it? Do you have some favourite dining music? Feel free to comment on my Instagram post and share your thoughts!