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Music can alter the way diners taste, says neuroscientist

By Nikkie Sutton , 10-Jul-2017
Last updated on 10-Jul-2017 at 11:44 GMT2017-07-10T11:44:53Z

All about the bass: chocolate flavours in Spanish churros are intensified with a deep and heavy bass
All about the bass: chocolate flavours in Spanish churros are intensified with a deep and heavy bass

Diners appreciate particular dishes more when listening to particular kinds of music, which is something pubs could tap into according to a leading scientist.

Ahead of this year’s music and food festival, The Big Feastival, event host Alex James met with cognitive neuroscientist and Institute of Philosophy deputy director Dr Ophelia Deroy, to discover how music choices impact taste.

Deroy and James tested four dishes from The Big Feastival’s street food vendors alongside different musical styles and discussed how the correct combination enhances the overall experience and makes positive memories even stronger.

Deroy outlined how a change in music, such as pitch, tempo, volume or instrumental, alters diners’ wider perceptions, even with just one bite.

Fruity notes

The research showed that high-pitch music brought out fruity and citrus notes in a dish of halloumi fries, which were sprinkled with fresh pomegranate seeds and seasoning.

Dark flavours, such as the velvety chocolate in hot Spanish churros from chocolate vendors Churros Garcia are intensified with deep and heavy bass in a song.

Deroy said: “When slow, relaxed music is played and people are asked to describe what they taste, we find the answers are detailed and descriptive.

“When we ramp up the beats per minute, the fast music encourages faster chewing and people are less likely to pick up on all the flavours in the dish.”

The duo also tasted a pulled pork dish from Breddos Tacos and the individual elements in the meal became more obvious to James as the music slowed, which, according to the research, would strengthen his memory of the overall tasting experience.

Stimulating spices

The neuroscientist also explained how loud music amplifies the spiciness after the duo tasted gyozas from street food vendor Rainbo.

She said: “Some spices stimulate your facial nerves and lips, and there are the same mechanical vibrations that loud music produces. The two elements combine to make for a very spicy experience.”

James admitted he was sceptical of the study to begin with but was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

He said: “I wasn’t sure I would notice a difference between the flavours, but it really worked.

“The combination of good music and delicious food has always brought me great joy, especially through the festival, and this just goes to show that if you can get that perfect match, you’re on to a real winner.”

The Big Feastival will be taking place in Kingham, Oxfordshire, this August bank holiday weekend (25, 26 and 27 August).

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