The science of food and sound

Which sounds make a brownie taste best?

What's the best sound to pair with wafting coffee smells? What's the right song for the tomato sauce on your pizza? What's most ideal aural ambiance for your milkshake?

Lucy Hooker is a reporter with the BBC. She has been looking into a field called "neurogastronomy," or, in plain terms, "what your brain does when you eat something."  

She points to one study in which scientists gave people a dessert and played different sounds while they were eating. Depending on which sounds were played, a dessert could taste more bitter or more sweet.

Starbucks liked the idea so much, they asked the scientists behind the research to compile a playlist of songs people should listen when drinking coffee at home. Hooker said Starbucks is not the only major company interested in this research.

“Lots of the really big food companies -- Unilever, Nestlé -- have massive research and development units, and they are putting a lot of effort and a lot of focus into seeing how they can use our different senses," said Hooker. "How they can combine the sound a food makes in our mouth, the sound of the packaging, the sight of it, the smell of it."

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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