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September 6, 2013

Pitch/Fork: The Relationship Between Sound And Taste

Scientific American:

Sometimes a toffee sounds really good–not just the suggestion of it, but the actual toffee itself. That’s according to a study that found altering the pitch and type of instruments used in an accompanying soundtrack can modify the way food tastes.

The experiment was conducted using background music that was developed based on previous research that explored associations between variations in pitch and the perception of sour, sweet, bitter, and salty tastes. Each volunteer was given four pieces of toffee. Two pieces were eaten accompanied by a soundtrack of a lower pitched brass instruments. The remaining toffee was consumed listening to a high pitched piano piece. The result was a bittersweet symphony. Although all of the toffee was the same, volunteers rated toffee consumed during the piano music as sweet while pieces eaten with the lower pitched music were perceived as bitter.

These findings might be particularly illuminating for those who may have associated the experience of something dissolving on the tongue and musical pairings with a trip other than one to the science lab. It might also be useful for those who thought senses intertwining were only limited to those with synaesthesia, a neurological condition in which the senses cross over. For those with synaesthesia, a sense such as hearing or vision is experienced in a part of the body other than the part stimulated. It’s believed abstractionist painter Vassily Kandinsky had synaesthesia, hearing colors and seeing sounds. Although it has been theorized that everyone might have the potential to develop synaesthesia, only 1-4% of the population actually experience the condition. Since everyone might have a bit of it, you don’t have to be Kandinsky to experience an element of synaesthesia. Nor do you have to be Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds to taste music.

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Posted by acapnews at September 6, 2013 12:00 AM