What's In A Name? The Case of Smoked Salmon Ice Cream
Heston Blumenthal is well known for his commitment to the idea that dining is a multi sensory experience and as such, highly complex.
Here is an early research paper which Heston collaborated on with scientists from Firmenich Research and University of Sussex. The point of interest was how did labels or names of food affect its taste - if at all? They chose a smoked Salmon flavoured ice cream, labeled as either Ice cream or frozen savoury mousse.
Guess what - when people were told it was ice cream it was rated as more strongly tasting salt and savoury and was more strongly disliked. In contrast it was perceived as less salt/savoury and more acceptable when they expected 'savoury mousse'
You have to set up expectations VERY carefully!
What's In A Shape?
Whereas the description sets up an expectation (above) it seems shape can also have a symbolic link with taste.
Another team of researchers asked various groups of people to taste cheese and then record their responses on a scale with an angular, sharp symbol at one end and a rounded symbol at the other.
They found that strong, pungent cheeses were considered to be more angular in shape. Mild cheeses were considered to be more rounded in shape. They suggest this has implications for how cheese is packaged and presented.
Charles Spence et al; Crossmodal correspondences: Assessing shape symbolism for cheese; Food Quality and Preference; Volume 28, Issue 1, April 2013, Pages 206–212
What Does Your Taste In Food Say About You? Sweet Tooth - Sweet Nature?
Metaphors are being recognised as very important for affecting our 'reality'. So we know that giving someone a warm drink to hold before going into a meeting tends to encourage them to behave 'warmly' during the meeting.
Here's a piece of research looking at the metaphor we use to describe agreeable / nice people. "My sweetheart", "honey", "My sugar" e.g. It seems that the metaphor of sweetness translates directly into personality reality!
People rated as more agreeable seem to prefer sweet foods. People who have a sweet tooth also seem to be more likely to give their time to volunteer help.
It even seems that giving people chocolate can lead them to behave more agreeably and volunteer help more!
Being cynical, when you got that romantic box of chocolates do you think the giver was just trying to soften you up?