Tate & Lyle
Carst and Walker
Penn-Teller

Our expectation affects food likes and dislikes

Does pouring plain old tap water into fancy bottles make it taste better? Yes. At least in it did in a Penn & Teller (eccentric American comedians and magicians who also specialise in BS-busting) episode on bottled water (do watch this video below – it’s very entertaining). Penn & Teller went inside a southern California restaurant featuring a water sommelier who dispensed extravagant water menus to the patrons – however, the point of this post is to show how taste can be dramatically affected by suggestions and expectations.

The patrons had no idea that all of the fancy bottles of water were filled with the same water from a water hose in the back of the restaurant. Patrons were willing to pay $7.00 a bottle for L’eau Du Robinet (French for faucet water), Agua de Culo (Spanish for ass water), and Amazone (filtered through the Brazilian rainforest’s natural filtration system).

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How we taste can be dramatically affected by suggestions and expectations. But you’re forgiven for allowing your expectations to sway your enjoyment of wind and food. It’s not your fault; it’s your brain’s. Brain imaging research shows that as subjects sip what they believe is an expensive wine, brain areas associated with pleasure are more greatly activated than if they sip the same wine but are told it’s cheap. As far as your brain’s pleasure region is concerned you actually do get what you pay for.

How do cues prior to ingestion predict flavour perception?

Yeomans et al. (2008) looked at expectations about food flavour by using an unusual flavour of ice cream: smoked salmon.

One group ate the ice cream from a dish labelled “Ice cream” and another group ate the ice cream from a dish labelled “Frozen savoury mousse.”  The experience of the food in the mouth generated strong dislike when labelled as ice-cream, but acceptance when labelled as frozen savoury mousse.

Labelling the food as ice-cream also resulted in stronger ratings of how salty and savoury the food was than when labeled as a savoury food. The individuals that ate the frozen savoury mousse found the ice cream less salty and bitter, and found its overall flavour more pleasant (Rosenblum, 2010)…..

PsychCentral: Read more

What is expectation assimilation?

It’s the notion that our taste perceptions are biased by our imagination, and if you expect a food to taste good it will. However, expectation assimilation also works in the opposite direction. If you expect a food to taste unpleasant it will (Wansink, 2006).

At a cafeteria in Urbana, Illinois, 175 people were given a free brownie dusted with powdered sugar (Wansink, 2006). They were told the brownie was a new dessert that may be added to the menu. They were asked how they liked the flavour and how much they would pay for it. All of the brownies were the same size and had the same ingredients. However, the brownies were served on a china plate, on a paper plate or on a paper napkin.

Those who received the brownie on a china plate said the brownie was excellent. The people eating the brownie from the paper plate rated the brownie as good. Those who were served the brownie on a napkin said it was okay but nothing special.

Individuals eating from the china plate said they would pay $1.27 for the brownie, while those eating from the paper plate said they would pay 76 cents, and those eating from the napkin said they would pay 53 cents……

PsychCentral: Read more

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