Beliefs and Values And What Tastes Good
In some conditions they were told they were tasting real beef sausage rolls when actually they eating a vegetarian alternative that tasted the same. Then they were told they were eating the vegetarian alternative when actually they were eating the beef.
Meaty sausage rolls are aspirationalAllen and his colleagues were inspired to this trickery by research demonstrating that how we experience something we eat is influenced by our beliefs. For example in one study people rated yoghurt and sandwiches labelled ''full fat'' as tastier than those labelled ''low fat''. In fact both foods were identical.
The current study differed in that it was interested in how people''s beliefs about social power affected their taste experiences. The scientists asked participants to complete a questionnaire that accessed the extent to which they seek to dominate others socially and acquire resources, wealth and public recognition.
The results showed that those who were low on social power values preferred the taste of the vegetarian sausage roll, regardless of whether they''d actually tasted the beef or the veggie alternative. Those high on social power, however, found the beef more tasty, even when it was just the veggie option labelled as beef.
Pepsi challengeIn a second test of this idea the scientists did a version of the Pepsi challenge. Participants were given either Pepsi or a store-brand cola to drink. But as before they were sometimes lied to about which one they had been given.
This time the scientists weren''t interested in social power but instead on whether people endorsed the idea that life should be exciting and full of enjoyment - something that Pepsi''s advertising encourages, and store-brand cola doesn''t have much to say about.
Again, those who most strongly agreed that life should be full of excitement thought the cola they were told was Pepsi was more tasty, whether or not they actually were drinking Pepsi or not.
Can you taste the difference?This research is a fascinating demonstration of how quite subtle differences in the way we think about food and drink can have significant influences on how we experience them. It lends more weight to certain explanations of some everyday phenomena:
Potato for President?The authors of the study even wonder if healthy eating could be encouraged by changing the values linked to fruit and vegetables.
Whatever the outcome of the potential rebranding of fruit and vegetables (carrots march into war, aubergines win promotions and a potato is elected as President) this study is certainly a neat demonstration of one more aspect of our everyday experience which is directly influenced by our beliefs and values.
» The full paper is available on Scribd.
[Image credit: alisdair].