OMG. This pizza is AMAZING.
That soup looks SO. GROSS.
How did it taste? Was it any good?
Just close your eyes and try it!
Whether they love it or hate it, humans are obsessed with talking about their food. And those words—from glowing excitement to total revulsion—have an affect on the experience of people eating that food.
Think about it. If someone says that you've GOT to try a dish, chances are that you will really want to try it, too. But if a person at the table says "Yuck!" after trying food, isn't it true that we start to wonder ourselves about how something tastes?
A new study from Ohio State University decided to test the power that words have over our taste. How? By seeing if a simple two word phrase could 'change' the flavour of one of the most beloved treats ever.
The chocolate chip cookie!
Read the label (or maybe don't!)
In the study, 58 adults were asked to taste and rate three chocolate chip cookies. Three of the exact same chocolate chip cookies.
But the three cookies had one distinct difference. How they were labeled.
One cookie had the label: 'New and Improved'. The second said 'Factory Typical', while the final one read, 'Consumer Complaint'.
Overall, the results showed something fascinating. The 'New and Improved' cookies were rated a little better than the 'Factory Typical' ones, but much better than the 'Consumer Complaint' ones. Where the first cookies were seen as things like sweet, moist, and chewy, the third group were dry, bitter, or stale.
Again, all of this despite the fact that the cookies were exactly the same!
What is at work with these words? It is something known as bias.
Bias is a situation where our experience is influenced ahead of time by some information. Bias can be both positive or negative and it can take many forms. In the case of food, it can be a smell, or something we see. It can be an unclean table at a restaurant, or a friendly server. It can even be a situation—like being with good friends or celebrating an event—that can turn just-okay food into a feast for the ages!
And it can definitely be words. In this study, a positive bias was attached to the cookies labeled 'New and Improved', while a negative bias affected the 'Consumer Complaint' cookies. After all, if other people were complaining about those cookies, there must be something wrong with them, right?
In the end, our sense of taste is a wonderful thing. It brings us joy that makes eating way more than just filling our tummies. And it is a vital warning system about food that has actually spoiled or can make us sick. But it's not perfect. Even a few simple words can change a lot about what we taste.
And now, if you're not going to eat those 'Consumer Complaint' cookies, pass them over here. We're pretty sure that they're just fine!