Plane food can typically taste dull and bland. But now, according to the Mirror, experts say they know the reason why.
Eating is a multi-sensory experience and exposure to loud noise affects people’s ratings of food, researchers claim.
This could be contributing to the poor reputation that airline meals receive as airplane cabins are environments where food is usually consumed under extreme noise conditions.
Psychologists in the US studied the influence of noise during a flight on the five basic tastes.
A total of 48 participants rated sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami solutions on a scale from ‘barely detectable’ to ‘strongest imaginable’.
Each taste was tested with three concentration levels and at different noise levels ranging from normal room noise to 85 decibels. Noise was delivered for 30 minutes prior to testing while participants read or studied, and continued to play during testing.
Noise level had no influence on intensity ratings for salty, bitter, and sour tastes. However, taste intensity was suppressed for sweet solutions at all concentration levels and enhanced for umami solutions at higher concentrations, in the air cabin noise condition.
Study co-author Kimberly Yan, of Cornell University in New York state, said: “These results suggest that enjoyment of airline food may be rated consistently lower than would be expected because the loud ambient noise dampens perception of pleasurable sweet flavours.
“However, the results also suggest that this could be ameliorated by focusing on the sought-after taste quality of umami, which was not just immune to the effects of loud noise, but enhanced by it.”
The authors said the link between noise and taste was not totally surprising as nerves connected to taste buds cross the ear on their way to the brain.
The findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.