Thought your meal at that last restaurant tasted off? Blame the screaming baby over in the next booth.
Found that the burger at the bar last night wasn't as flavorful as usual? Maybe the jukebox was too loud.
According to an article (and podcast) by Scientific American, there is an explanation: the noise around you may have altered how you perceived the taste of the food you were eating. It cites a study published in the journal Food Quality and Preference that suggests a causal link between restaurant noise and the perception of flavor.
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In an experiment, 48 college students were made to listen to headphones playing a loud white noise, a soft white noise, or silence. Then they were given the same foods (Pringles and cookies), and asked to rate the flavor.
Here's what they found: The students who heard the loud white noise perceived the chips to be not as salty and the cookies not as sweet.
This supports past studies which has shown that "sound can interfere with how the brain processes smell". By the sound of this experiment (pun intended), it may do the same for taste. The researchers theorize that this could explain why airline food gets a bad rap.
To me, the conclusions raise even more questions. Will this spark a new trend of sound-deprived restaurants? After all, they tried "dark dining". Are "silent suppers" not far off? And there's this: would the food at Chuck E. Cheese be more enjoyable with earplugs?