Effect of background noise on food perception
We investigated the effects of auditory background noise on the perception of gustatory food properties (sugar level, salt level), food crunchiness and food liking. Participants blindly consumed different foods whilst passively listening to either no sound, or quiet or loud background white noise. The foods were then rated in terms of sweetness, saltiness and liking (Experiment 1) or in terms of overall flavour, crunchiness and liking (Experiment 2). Reported sweetness and saltiness was significantly lower in the loud compared to the quiet sound conditions (Experiment 1), but crunchiness was reported to be more intense (Experiment 2). This suggests that food properties unrelated to sound (sweetness, saltiness) and those conveyed via auditory channels (crunchiness) are differentially affected by background noise. A relationship between ratings of the liking of background noise and ratings of the liking of the food was also found (Experiment 2). We conclude that background sound unrelated to food diminishes gustatory food properties (saltiness, sweetness) which is suggestive of a cross-modal contrasting or attentional effect, whilst enhancing food crunchiness.