Just what do airline meals have to do with hypnosis or mind control?
Well, as it turns out, a new study shows signs that sound can influence how we taste foods. Certain sounds can deaden the taste of salt and sugar, rendering foods bland and, well, tasteless. Such sounds as the everpresent background noise found in airplanes.
The inexplicable blandness of airline food has been pondered at 30,000 feet by generations of travellers. Now an explanation has been offered in the form of research showing that people lose their sense of taste when listening to the sort of “white noise” heard inside an aircraft’s cabin.
The findings could explain a phenomenon well known to airline companies: passengers tend to lose their sense of taste when they are in the air. For this reason, airline meals are often “improved” with extra salt, sugar and other flavourings.
This leads to an interesting set of questions: can tastes be not only depressed but improved or changed because of sounds? (It could make an interesting dieting aid, a specifically designed sound or sounds played while eating to control appetite, and that would be a more benign form of mind control.)
The scientists found that certain sounds not only affected people’s sense of saltiness or sweetness, they also influenced how crunchy some types of food sounded to the diners – which in turn affected their perceptions of freshness and palatability.
A further part of the study showed that people listening to sounds they deemed to be pleasant were also more likely to say that their food was tastier, which may explain why many restaurants play ambient background music.
This section suggests that by controlling the sounds and music of the environment, restaurants influence not only the enjoyment of the food but even influence how the food is perceived, whether it is fresh and flavorful. That’s certainly a form of subtle mind control, manipulating and controlling the perceptions of the people eating the food as opposed to allowing them to determine for themselves those questions, and while it may be to improve their enjoyment of the meal, it can also be used to cover up inferior food.
So I guess the statement here should be “Let the eater beware.”
Thanks to Derren Brown’s blog entry for the pointer to the original story here.