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Taste Isn’t Everything: Virtual Reality Proves That We Eat With Our Eyes and Ears

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Sorry to Break it to You; Taste isn’t Everything

As much as we’re told not to eat with our eyes but we can’t help the fact that we actually do. Contrary to common belief, the quality and taste of the food are not the only things that matter.

The place we sit in, the things around us, and the presentation of a meal actually have a lot more to do with your dining experience. Food scientists at Cornell University ran an experiment using virtual reality to prove just how little the actual taste of food matters.

We Eat With Our Ears and Eyes

Robin Dando is an associate professor of food and science, as well as the author of the entire study. He explained that our ears and eyes play a large role with an individuals food perception. When we eat, we perceive not only just the taste and aroma of foods, we get sensory input from our surroundings – our eyes, ears, even our memories about surroundings,” Dando says.

Here’s  How They Proved It

About 50 participants put on virtual reality headsets. Each person had two pieces of the same exact blue cheese on their plates. What they did not know was that both cheese samples were identical!

First, their virtual reality headsets placed them on a park bench, and then in the Cornell cow barn. Virtual reality gives a person a 360 view of the area around them. They can turn their heads in any direction and see everything they would see if they were actually in that place.

For example; when they were sitting on the park bench, they can turn around and see people playing soccer behind them. It also uses pre-recorded sounds, so the subjects not only see the kids playing, they’ll hear them too.

A Change of Setting

The subjects ate their cheese in the different settings they virtually and rated the cheese. A majority of participants said that the cheese they tried in the cow barn was way more pungent than the cheese they ate on the cow bench.

Apparently feeling like you’re in a stinky milk farm gives your cheese a little kick to it!

So… Maybe That Ice Cream Wasn’t So Amazing

Dando says that strong aspects of our surroundings interfere with our perception of food. “We consume foods in surroundings that can spill over into our perceptions of the food,” said Dando. All the times we remember eating the best ice cream of our lives might actually have nothing to do with the taste of our food. Maybe it was simply the beautiful weather that made the ice cream taste sooo good.