Cork researcher: food taste more to do with eyes than mouth

Cork researcher: food taste more to do with eyes than mouth
A generic photo of a selection of berries including blackberries, goosberries, raspberries and redcurrants. 

HOW food tastes has more to do with what we see with our eyes than it does with what we put in our mouths, according to a leading Cork researcher in the field of sensory science.

It also turns out that a lot of what we think about food is influenced by colour than taste.

“Taste is only one very small part of the equation,” said Ballinlough native Dr Amalia Scannell, assistant professor at the Institute of Food and Health in the School of Agriculture and Food Science in University College Dublin.

Amalia is one of the featured researchers in Illusion, the third of the four Science Apprentice series of books which is out next weekend.

She said: “Our taste buds and our nasal receptors receive signals from food as it is chewed up in our mouths, but when we ‘taste’ food our brains also take into account everything we’ve learned in our lives about food, the social context of it, our memories and our expectations. It’s hugely complex. If I had to pick one factor that is most important in making food appealing, I’d say it was colour rather than taste. Human beings are very visual and we choose food with our eyes first.”

According to Amalia, how food looks plays a huge role in what our expectations are — if it looks really good, we are primed to expect it to taste nice too.

“The power of this phenomenon is extremely strong. Food that tastes merely okay but looks great will be experienced as being of higher quality than food that looks awful but tastes great,” she said. 

“That is partly how high-end restaurants differentiate themselves — the ingredients tend to be of high quality but the presentation is a big part of the appeal."

The Science Apprentice books are designed to encourage children and adults to explore the science, technology, engineering and mathematics of the world around us.

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