How Sound Affects the Way You Taste Food on Airplanes

How Sound Affects the Way You Taste Food on Airplanes

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Gazing out the window on a metal bird. If your in-flight Coca-Cola and Biscoff cookies taste a bit off at 30,000 feet, it’s not you. It’s the searing sound of jet engines.

A 2014 study conducted by experimental psychologist Charles Spence, a professor at the University of Oxford, found that blistering decibels of noise on airplanes dulls certain tastes, such as sweetness. But oddly, they discovered that umami, the savory taste, didn’t just seem to be immune to heightened noise levels. Umami flavor may be enhanced by loud background noises. It’s perhaps why tomato juice constitutes 27% of all drink orders on airplanes; people crave the umami-rich beverage on flights despite not drinking it elsewhere.

Researchers note in the study that “should it be proved that the perception of umami is indeed noise-insensitive, then one might also want to recommend an umami-rich menu—that is, foods such as parmesan cheese, tomatoes, and […]

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