Cup Color Tricks Taste Buds

January 8, 2013

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If you've ever dined with a stuffy nose, you know that what you smell strongly influences what you taste. But what you see matters too. Even the color of a cup can trick your taste buds. That’s according to research in the Journal of Sensory Studies. [Betina Piqueras-Fiszman and Charles Spence, The Influence of the Color of the Cup on Consumers' Perception of a Hot Beverage]

Researchers prepared store-bought hot chocolate, and served it in red, orange, white and cream-colored cups to 57 volunteers. The study subjects rated the sweetness, aroma, flavor and overall likeability of each cup of cocoa. Turns out hot chocolate in the orange cup was rated more likable and "chocolaty" than the others—even though each cup had the same stuff.

Previous studies also suggest color matters. Increasing the yellow hue of a 7-Up can, for example, makes people think the drink tastes more lemony. Likewise, researchers say the orange cup might enhance the chocolaty brown color of the cocoa, and enhance flavor. Since much more of the brain's cortex is devoted to vision than taste, what you see could matter as much as what your taste buds experience. So next time you're really savoring something, try feasting your eyes on something else—and see if the taste passes the test.

—Christopher Intagliata

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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