The Loh Down On Science

How to add spice to meals . . . without adding spices!

Image courtesy of Vohs et al., Psych. Sci., 2013.

People who performed a ritual before eating a snack reported more enjoyment than people who performed random movements. This was true whether people waited to eat the snack or not. [Caption altered from original.]

Want food to taste better?  Add a generous shake of . . . ritual!
 
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs.  The way she adds sugar to her espresso is kind of a ritual:  Shaking the packet, adding a little, tasting, adding more.  She wondered if such rituals affect how people perceive food.  So she and colleagues conducted a few experiments.

The researchers had some volunteers follow a list of chocolate-eating instructions before partaking … opening the package a certain way, breaking some off . . . in other words, a ritual.  Others were told to just relax and munch away.

Turns out, the volunteers who performed the “ritual” found the chocolate tastier than did the non-ritual group.  The ritualists were even inclined to pay more for it!  But the ritual had to be related to the food; when people performed random movements before eating chocolate, it didn't taste any better.

The ritual also can't just be observed:  Watching someone mix lemonade ritualistically has little effect.  You have to take up the spoon yourself.

As for throwing salt over your left shoulder?  That's just common sense!  It you want to be lucky.  Which I do.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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