The next time you’re shovelling food into your mouth, consider this: the taste of your nosh is actually influenced by the cutlery you use to eat it.
Psychologists at the University of Oxford asked participants to eat yoghurt from spoons with different weights and colours and then rate the taste of each sample.
They found that yoghurt slurped from light, plastic spoons tasted denser and more expensive than yoghurt eaten from weighted plastic spoons. The researchers say that this might be because our perception of taste is altered by unexpected experiences, such as a plastic spoon being unusually heavy.
The colour of the cutlery was also important. White yoghurt eaten from a white spoon scored higher for sweetness and quality than pink yoghurt. But when the white spoon was swapped for a black one, these results were reversed.
Even the shape of the cutlery can affect someone’s sense of taste. Cheese was rated as saltier when served on a knife than when gobbled from a spoon, fork or toothpick.
Dr Vanessa Harrar and Prof Charles Spence, who carried out this study, explain: “how we experience food is a multisensory experience involving taste, the feel of the food in our mouths, aroma, and the feasting of our eyes. Even before we put food into our mouths, our brains have made a judgement about it, which affects our overall experience.”
They say that their research could be used to help change people’s eating habits, such as portion size or the amount of salt added to meals, by providing cutlery or tableware with certain colours and shapes.