The ability to distinguish food by taste is important daily. Yet people do differ in their ability to taste accurately, just like people do differ in their eye-sight or hearing performance. The purpose of the present study was to figure out different factors that influence our ability to taste. Specifically, we explored whether this ability is higher if we are used to the taste. Participants were asked to distinguish two drinks that tasted about the same. Those participants who scored high on correctly distinguished drinks were separated looked at and the extent to which they were used to the drink was measured. The analysis of the data suggests that the ability to successfully distinguish two tastes is not influenced by repeated exposure.
It’s a Matter of Taste - what are the factos that influence taste?
It’s a matter of taste. Everyone of us has come across this sentence in different situations. It is used to excuse the obviously tasteless new hair color your excited friend asks your opinion about. Or used by caring grandmas to reason why their little darling refuses to eat the “but so healthy” cabbage soup. This short saying does at least state one true fact: taste differs. Excluding other areas of our life like the different preferences in colors, cars or partners, the present study focuses only on different tastes for food. According to a study published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies, our eating habits and eating preferences are highly influenced by factors as gender and age, with the factor female in combination with being 60 years tending to indicate that a healthier diet is favoured. But the study also suggests that other factors can predict our eating habits and in generall, the ability to taste is definitely the basis for this habit (Butler, L. T et al., 2008).
In this study, we were interested in the question to which extent we are capable to taste even slight differences in food, and which factors play a role in our ability to do so. To answer these questions, a study with university students was conducted, in which the ability to differentiate between two hardly distinguishable drinks was measured, along with other specific items such as age, gender, regular consumption of the drink and so on. As the drink, cola was chosen and the only difference between the two drinks was either a cola drink from the brand Coca-Cola® or from the brand Pepsi Cola®. According to Brandbury (2004), the ability to taste food properly is a life-and-death matter. In biological terms, we need to consider taste to be the brain`s mechanism to detect the features and therefore the energetic value of a particular food. As
Brandbury (2004) puts it, “taste is the sense by which the chemical qualities of food [...] are recognised by the brain”. In this study, the drinks consisted mainly of two different kinds of taste, as cola is above all both sour and sweet. The tasks of these two qualities are quite different. The detection of sour is needed to control the acid balance, whereas sweet is needed to provide a guide to calorie-rich foods.
Both according to Brandbury and the International Journal of Consumer Studies, the knowledge about which factors influence our ability to detect those tastes seems to have different, practical effects on the improvement of our health. Brandbury states that serious diseases like high blood pressure or the loss of taste sense in elderly people can be treated if more accurate understanding is achieved (Brandbury,2004). And the study The influence of age and gender on food choice: a focus group exploration seems to see the benefits even more generally: “due to the extra economic and social pressures […] there is an increasing need to understand what motivates and prevents consumers from eating a healthy diet” (Butler, Chambers, Lobb and Traill, 2008). As it is the purpose of the present study to find out which factors influence taste ability, we are interessted whether those participants who are more capable to detect differences also tend to consume the drink regularly and in a high amount.
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- Anna Hudalla (Autor), 2011, It´s a Matter of Taste. What are the factors that influence taste?, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/264764