Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Noise Levels – Taste & Perception


evo-lution
 Share

Recommended Posts

I've long suspected that noise levels of music (and other distractions) have a huge effect on an individual's perception of how a drink tastes and an article that's just landed in my inbox somewhat confirms my suspicions. I understand that there has been some research by the likes of Blumenthal/Adria/et al on the food side of things however nothing I'm aware of related to alcohol and noise levels.

My original hunch came as someone who regularly mixes, and consumes, drinks in a number of different enviroments. As a (now only occasional) working bartender, beverage producer, consultant/trainer and event organiser, as well as regular frequenter of many establishments, I always found it staggering how different the same recipe made with the same ingredients would be perceived dependent on the enviroment. My original suspicion came due to how different a double shot & mixer, or an Old Fashioned for example, would taste in a loud bar enviroment versus making it home as, let's say, a quiet nightcap. The latter always taste much stronger to me even though they are being prepared identically.

There's clearly a host of factors to take into account but from my own experiences I've always believed it, so much so that I had written a piece on it that I'd always intended to upload to my webpage but never gotten round to until I had researched it in a bit more depth.

The full piece can be read at the following link in the latest issue of CLASS Digital;

http://www.diffordsguide.com/class-magazine/read-online/en/2012-01-03/page-4/noisy-bars

Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Reading the paper... it's interesting and they're taking a first look at specific effects. But it's by no means revolutionary thinking to suggest that many other sensory, perceptual and cognitive elements can effect our perception of flavors. Or, rather, that many other sensory, perceptual and cognitive elements can effect our perception of just about anything. To make a famous example, it's been widely known for some time that even wine experts can be tricked into mistaking a white wine for a red wine simply by coloring the white wine red.

What's interesting to me is not that higher levels of distraction were positively associated with lower abilities to discriminate alcoholic strength. Distraction always has an inhibiting effect on these kinds of skills. As the authors point out in the discussion, perceiving alcoholic strength is a much more complex task compared to sweetness or bitterness. Rather, it's interesting to me that exposure to music seemed to have the effect of increasing the perception of sweetness. However, it's not clear that this particular finding has much applicability to a real bar scene, as the group which listened to music and performed another distracting task (similar to holding a conversation in a bar with loud music) did not show increased perception of sweetness.

--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Reading the paper... it's interesting and they're taking a first look at specific effects. But it's by no means revolutionary thinking to suggest that many other sensory, perceptual and cognitive elements can effect our perception of flavors. Or, rather, that many other sensory, perceptual and cognitive elements can effect our perception of just about anything. To make a famous example, it's been widely known for some time that even wine experts can be tricked into mistaking a white wine for a red wine simply by coloring the white wine red.

Absolutely, I touched on that in the OP along with the point regarding other factors that have to be taken into account, but in this instance it's more to do with the fact that there's little, if anything, that's been carried out regarding alcohol and its surroundings, first and foremost with taste but secondly with the added factor of inebriation*.

Hopefully someone may be interested in picking up on this and carrying out some further research which either confirms or refute my suspicion.

*in respect of how people feel the effect of alcohol dependent on their enviroment

However, it's not clear that this particular finding has much applicability to a real bar scene

I disagree with that, it definitely applies.

Edited by evo-lution (log)

Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How do you figure that a finding that perception of sweetness increased with music alone, but did not increase when music was combined with another distracting stimulus/task, has applicability to a real bar scene?

I understand what you're suggesting and agree to a point however a real bar scene will vary dependent on a host of variables. For example it's not always the case that bars play music, and some people go to bars for the peace and quiet and don't speak to anyone, all they have is their own thoughts and their drink in hand. As another example, there's a wee pub next to my house where if I was to go early enough in the day (on an early day in the week) I could practically guarantee I'd be the only person there with little-to-no sound.

As I touched upon there are so many environments and considerations to be made that it's something which requires a lot more research. Very interesting, even if it's solely discussing the strength aspect...

Edited by evo-lution (log)

Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

Link to comment
Share on other sites

that is an interesting looking paper.

i have read one of the references in their bibliography before: "smelling sounds: olfactory-auditory sensory convergence in the olfactory tubercle"

the "smelling sounds" paper explains how sounds sometimes change the threshold of perception of an aroma in animals. this would be useful to animals evading predators or trying to evaluate a threat level. in every multisensory system i've come across so far, one sense can either amplify another or distract from another. think salt the aroma enhancer or "too salty".

using sound to augment flavor in a beautiful context is a challenge, but there are lots of other similar phenomenons like using texture to change the threshold of perception of an aroma. texture even changes the perception of alcohol. think of eating the pineapple in the stoli doli jar.

when you start to investigate distractions in multisensory systems an order of operations of perception starts to become evident. this idea had led me to my "simplified gustation model" of constructing cocktails that are the easiest to smell.

a useful book for investigating the science and language of attention is "sleights of mind: what the neuroscience of magic reveals about or everyday deceptions". some of this sensory science hasn't been targeting flavor specifically, but the interaction of the senses have so much in common that things can be reapplied.

Edited by bostonapothecary (log)

abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's funny that I should see this discussed here; Angus Winchester posted his thoughts on the article on Facebook last week and I read through it then. I think it's a very interesting study, to say the least, and I would be keen to give it some practical testing in the bars and restaurants I work at in the future.

Sommelier at The Three Chimneys, Isle of Skye, UK :: www.oscarjmalek.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's funny that I should see this discussed here; Angus Winchester posted his thoughts on the article on Facebook

Yeah, it was shared from my page, the discussion in his comments was mostly with myself.

Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As (a somewhat relevant aside) when I was younger and a regular at a bar when the noise got too loud, they'd go over to the dimmers and dip the lights slightly. This resulted in an audible drop in volume in the bar. Seems we whisper when it gets dark.

You may find this useful if you want to manipulate this effect.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah, the influence of headline grabbing journalism based on manipulating research data. There are a couple of points to bear in mind on this subject;

While the study is well executed and the results properly validated it is also very narrow in its focus and does not support the broad hypothesis suggested by the title of the article.

There is a large body of data available relating to effects of sensory distractions on taste and flavour both in food and drink, the extrapolation of the various findings will lead you to some conclusions. What you will not find are broad hypotheses giving overarching headlines. This is due to the logistical restrictions on producing properly reviewable data. Factor in the difficulty in experimenting with inebriation within BPS guidelines and the research becomes, by its very nature, quite situation specific.

This paper is a very small piece in a large puzzle that is all. Individual perception filters, and more significantly NFC levels render these kind of studies theoretical signposts. I have spent the last couple of years conducting academic research into poly-modal perception in the drinks industry and while results have been interesting we are a long way from being able to make dramatic statements such as ‘music makes drinks taste sweeter’. That kind of tabloid journalism is not at all helpful.

On a side note, the coffee supposition is quite telling – it’s incorrect to suggest that coffee acts as a particular diuretic agent. While coffee itself does cause mild diuresis the fact that the majority of a cup of coffee is water renders this largely irrelevant. The amount of coffee you would have to drink for the diuretic effect to become significant is very large indeed. It’s a good example of a scientific statement being half-understood and then repeated Chinese whisper style, I hope that doesn't happen with this study.

I hope you all find what you are looking for.

Nick

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually this is a good point regarding NFC and AFC - as an American Football Coach in my spare time I should have made that connection ! I will however limit my speculations on Tebow Time to another forum.

NFC is need for cognition and is the reason that a group of bartenders would return a different set of results from a group of students. Simply put the area of the brain employed to process taste and flavour differs according to NFC.

The BPS is the British Psychological Society. The code of Ethics dictate the research that can be carried out. (APA in the US, etc.)

I must point out that at this time I am not a professional researcher (20 years in the drinks industry probably counts as my profession), though this subject is the basis of my post-grad studies.

Nick

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah, the influence of headline grabbing journalism based on manipulating research data. There are a couple of points to bear in mind on this subject;

While the study is well executed and the results properly validated it is also very narrow in its focus and does not support the broad hypothesis suggested by the title of the article.

Thanks for chiming in Nick. I would imagine most would look further than a headline however, there does appear to be some correlation between what is suggested in the headline even if it has maybe been written to grab attention. In this instance, the main reason I've expanded the debate on here and on Facebook to some degree as it sits with something I've long suspected and can only base on personal experiences (from both sides of the pine and in a host of different settings) some of which I mention above.

It's really interesting and I'd love to find out more about it.

Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...