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A growing body of scientific research has recently started to demonstrate how both music and soundscapes can influence people’s perception of the taste, flavour, and mouthfeel of food and drink. However, to date, far less research has investigated the question of whether the music that happens to be playing in the background might also influence the way in which chefs, home cooks, and others making food (or, for that matter, mixing drinks) develop or season their creations. One of the aims of this review is to highlight the markedly different views currently held by chefs concerning the appropriateness of music in their kitchens (and the different roles that it might play). Next, the evidence that has been published to date suggesting that the music people listen to can change the particular taste/flavour profiles that they create is reviewed. A number of putative explanations for the crossmodal effects of music on taste are evaluated, including the suppressive effect of loud noise on certain aspects of taste perception, priming through crossmodal correspondences, and/or the influence of any music-induced changes in mood on taste/flavour perception. Given that what we hear influences what we taste, and hence, how the person in the kitchen likely creates/seasons the dish, some commentators have been tempted to wonder whether the same music should perhaps also be played in the spaces (e.g., the restaurant or home dining room) where that food will be consumed in order to equate the conditions in which the dish or drink is seasoned/created with the environment in which it is tasted. This opinion piece ends by stressing the limitations with such an approach. One of the main problems being the kinds of music that the majority of chefs apparently prefer to listen to while working in the kitchen, music which is often chosen to motivate the staff who will likely be working a long shift.
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Music from the kitchen
Charles Spence
A growing body of scientific research has recently started to demonstrate how both music and soundscapes can
influence peoples perception of the taste, flavour, and mouthfeel of food and drink. However, to date, far less
research has investigated the question of whether the music that happens to be playing in the background might
also influence the way in which chefs, home cooks, and others making food (or, for that matter, mixing drinks)
develop or season their creations. One of the aims of this review is to highlight the markedly different views
currently held by chefs concerning the appropriateness of music in their kitchens (and the different roles that it
might play). Next, the evidence that has been published to date suggesting that the music people listen to can
change the particular taste/flavour profiles that they create is reviewed. A number of putative explanations for the
crossmodal effects of music on taste are evaluated, including the suppressive effect of loud noise on certain aspects
of taste perception, priming through crossmodal correspondences, and/or the influence of any music-induced
changes in mood on taste/flavour perception. Given that what we hear influences what we taste, and hence, how
the person in the kitchen likely creates/seasons the dish, some commentators have been tempted to wonder
whether the same music should perhaps also be played in the spaces (e.g., the restaurant or home dining room)
where that food will be consumed in order to equate the conditions in which the dish or drink is seasoned/created
with the environment in which it is tasted. This opinion piece ends by stressing the limitations with such an
approach. One of the main problems being the kinds of music that the majority of chefs apparently prefer to listen
to while working in the kitchen, music which is often chosen to motivate the staff who will likely be working a long
Keywords: Music, Taste, Flavour, Culinary creation, Seasoning, Crossmodal correspondence
Music from the kitchen
Unlike the sentiment captured in an ad of a few years
ago from AEG Electrolux for its kitchen appliances that
had the strapline "The kitchen that sounds like a library.",
kitchens, especially busy commercial kitchens, are places
that are full of noiseor at least they should be. As chef
Zakary Pelaccio, founder of the Fatty Crab and Fatty 'Cue
restaurants in North America, puts it in his book Eat with
your hands,Instead of a silent kitchen, with all the vitality
of a courtroom, you want a kitchen thats a party. So turn on
some music”…“Every professional kitchen I have ever run
and every home kitchen I have ever spent time in has been
filled with music. If you watch closely, youll notice that ev-
eryones cooking to the beat. Good cooks all have a natural
groove to begin withyou can see it in their step, hear it in
the way they chop or in the pound of their pestle. That
groove is the subtle manifestation of a cooks connection
with his ingredients. So turn the music up.([28], p. 14).
All of the recipes in Pelaccios [28] book come with a
musical recommendation concerning what to listen to
while preparing the dish. So, for anyone thinking about
cooking, the chef s Frog leg clay pot, for example, the
musical suggestion is Ghostland Observatory, or any
other cheesy, fun dance music, will keep you on your
toes so you dont overcook the croaker. As you listen,
hop around a bit in homage.([28], p. 19).
In a sense following up on Pelaccios [28] suggestion,
Swedens Per Samuelsson literally makes music with the
sounds from the kitchen. He records the sounds of prep-
aration, the noise of peeling, chopping, slicing, dicing,
grinding, shaking, and stirring as the chefs work to
prepare the dishes that will later be served (see Fig. 1).
These sounds are then used as the elements (or
Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Oxford University, Oxford, UK
Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1
© 2015 Spence. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License
(, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http:// applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Spence Flavour (2015) 4:25
DOI 10.1186/s13411-015-0035-z
instruments if you will) in his musical compositions. A
key element of these performances is that they are very
much site/event specific. That is, the musical composi-
tions are played back to the diners while they are tucking
into the fruits of the chefs labours. They literally hear the
food being made. It is easy to imagine how such an ap-
proach might help foster a closer connection between the
kitchen and the diners. Indeed, it would certainly be intri-
guing to conduct the appropriate experimental research to
assess this claim empirically. According to Samuelsson
[34], one of the aims behind his compositions is to high-
light the often under acknowledged effort that is involved
in creating the food that the diner all too happily eats. At
the same time, Samuelsson hopes to create an immersive
multisensory environment that enhances the experience
of the meal for those who are lucky enough to be dining.
Silence in the kitchen
In stark contrast to Pelaccios [28] professed preferred
sonic accompaniment whenever he is cooking, you would
not have heard any music had you been lucky enough to
stumble into the kitchen of the ElBulli restaurant near
Rosales, Spain. It was forbidden! In fact, just before the
restaurant closed its doors for the last time, the great chef
Ferran Adrià was quoted as saying We never listen to
music in the kitchenwe cant[24]. Silence was also the
order of the day in Chicagos famous Alinea restaurant
(note that this restaurant is frequently ranked amongst the
worlds best). According to head chef Grant Achatz There
is no music in the restaurant at allAnd no music in the
kitchen.[12]. The reason being that Achatz did not want
anything to interfere with the cooking (not to mention the
diners savouring of each and every bite of the food that
he and his team prepared). Other famous restaurants with
music-free kitchens include New York Citys Eleven Madi-
son Park. According to the chef, Daniel Humm The kit-
chen has its own music. Based on the sound in the
kitchen, you can tell how things are going. Music would
interrupt that.[12].
Music in the kitchen
There is, though, another school of thought as to whether
music should be played in the kitchen. Pelaccio is certainly
not the only chef who believes that music is a good idea.
According to one young chef at Recette, in New Yorks
West Village, for example, music helps the creative juices
to flow.
As the chef there puts it When it gets too hectic
and overwhelming, I just turn on a tune. And I focus.[12].
So perhaps rather than thinking of music in the kitchen as
a distraction, one should consider the important role that it
can play in terms of motivating the staff who are working
there [2], not to mention in facilitating the creative process.
Indeed, there is a fairly extensive literature documenting
the role of music in encouraging creativity (e.g., [3, 11, 45]).
According to one journalist who researched the topic,
Recette is not unique in encouraging music in the
kitchens: ““Ask around, and youll hear a spate of testimo-
nials like that. Many chefs in New York and across the
country, especially those who are younger than 40, depend
on music as such a pivotal part of their creative process
that they would feel adrift in the kitchen without it.”…“I
would kill myself,said chef Emma Hearst, 25, who could
be found with her team, one evening in March, cranking
Led ZeppelinsCustard Pieby the stove at Sorella, on
the Lower East Side. Iwouldntwanttoworkwithsome-
one who didnt play music. I just wouldntbehappy
Music is the secret ingredient (on full blast) at Recette,
and its not the sort you would automatically associate
Fig. 1 Per Samuelsson on stage at the 2014 Sensibus Festival in Finland. The projection in the background shows the musician making the initial
recordings in the kitchen for one of his performances
Spence Flavour (2015) 4:25 Page 2 of 7
with a delicate presentation of, say, roasted foie gras or
blue prawn crudo. At this urbane bistro, those elegant
dishes ride out of the kitchen on the percussive thunder-
clouds of Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Alice in Chains,
Metallica and Tool.”” [12]. More recently, other journalists
have started to provide lists of the preferred music playing
in the kitchens of restaurants stretching all the way from
Dallas [23] to Washington D.C. [1].
Motivational music
The young Franco-Colombian chef, Charles Michel, cur-
rently the Chef in Residence at Oxford UniversitysCross-
modal Research Laboratory describes Frank Cerutti, chef
de cuisine at le Louis XVrestaurant in MonacosHotel
de Paris (
taurant)), putting on heavy metal during the mise en
placein order to make the kitchen staff go faster! Indeed,
this anecdote hints at the part of the reasoning behind the
chefs decision to deliver music being that it will hopefully
motivate the workers. As Colin Lynch, the executive chef
of Barbara Lynch Gruppo, comprising restaurants such as
Menton and No. 9 Park, puts it Idont think Ive ever
worked in a kitchen that didnthavesomeformofmusic
in it. The whole energy of the kitchen changes. The speed
at which people work changes depending what we listen
to. During prep, you zone out. Youre doing one thing for
45 minutes straight. It helps you keep that rhythm[10].
Musical seasoning: assessing the evidence
Now, the question that one has to ask at this point is
whether the music being listened to by all those chefs
working the long shifts in the kitchen might not exert
some influence on the way in which they end up prepar-
ing/seasoning the food. One early study that collected
evidence that is in some way relevant to this question
comes from Ferber and Cabanac ([9], Experiment 2).
These researchers had a group of 10 men mix together
either a pair of sweet solutions (one weak, the other
strong) in order to obtain the most pleasant-tasting mix-
ture of the two. They also had their participants mix to-
gether two salty solutions in order to make the least
unpleasant-tasting solution. While mixing the solutions,
and for the 20 min beforehand, these experimenters ex-
posed their participants to one of four background noise
conditions: unpleasant white noise presented at 70 or
90 dB, the participants own preferred pleasant music se-
lection (at 90 dB), or silence. Interestingly, however, no
difference in peoples preferred taste for the solutions
was found as a function of the presence versus absence
of noise when the drinks were analysed. Contrary to
what might have been expected, given some of the opin-
ions quoted so far in this paper, the atmospheric sound
did not exert any effect on the composition of the drinks
that were made, at least not in this early study. That
said, one might wonder whether the solutions were
complex enough to really allow the music to exert its
full effect.
Certainly, anything served in a home kitchen
or restaurant setting is likely to be much more complex
in terms of the tastes, textures, aromas, and flavours that
are all competing for the diners limited attention. The
reason why complexity matters here is that any effects
of selective attention may have more chance of affecting
perception under those (complex) conditions where
there are a number of elements of the flavour experience
that the participants attention can be drawn to. If one
takes the contrast case of, say, a solution that has no
taste/flavour other than sweetness, it may be difficult to
draw the participants attention away from that domin-
ant taste.
Recently, a group of Finnish and Argentinian researchers
arrived at a rather different conclusion with regard to the
impact of music on taste composition [18]. These re-
searchers had four groups of people, made up from the
general public who happened to turn up to a public science
fair, listen to music. The key manipulation was that the
music had been pre-selected to have either a sweetor
sourmusical connotation (see Table 1).
As an initial san-
ity check, the food/taste word associations that came to
peoples mind on listening to the music were assessed first.
As expected, analysis of the data revealed that the associa-
tions were indeed connected to the putative taste of the
The participants in Kontukoski et al.s [18] study were
provided with a range of sweet and sour ingredients
to play with and were invited to mix a drink that,
in some sense, matched the music that they were listen-
ing to. The sweet ingredients included mango juice,
orange juice, and liquid honey, while the sour juices in-
cluded grapefruit, lemon, and pineapple. Analysis of the
Table 1 The four music tracks that were used in Kontukoski et al.s
[18] recent study. Listening to these pieces, some idiosyncrasies
associated with the performances should perhaps be mentioned.
First, the breathing of the pianist is clearly audible in the Satie piece.
The Schumann recording is not of the highest quality. There is
audience noise, and the recording itself is rather sharp sounding,
and this aspect of the recording could possibly have affected the
results reported by Kontukoski and colleagues
Sweet music
Trois Gymnopédies, No.2 Lent et triste by Erik Satie, composed in 1888,
piano music ( = 1loSL7CjE_w);
Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6 No. 18, Nicht schnell, C major, Eusebius by
Robert Schumann composed in 1837, piano music (http://;
Sour music
Superscriptio by Brian Ferneyhough, composed in 1981, flute music
Fragments of transformed Argentinian tangos by Bruno Mesz (2012)
Spence Flavour (2015) 4:25 Page 3 of 7
composition of the drinks at the end of the study re-
vealed that significantly sweeter drinks had indeed been
mixed (123 g/l of sugar and 8.6 g/l total acid content)
while listening to the sweetermusical selections than
while listening to the putatively sour music (97 g/l of
sugar and 11.9 g/l total acid content). It is, though, per-
haps interesting to pause for a moment here in order to
think about how else these results might have turned
out. A priori, one might have anticipated either an as-
similation or a contrast effect (see [29, 35]). The sweet
music might have been expected to prime the associated
taste and hence result in the participants making drinks
sweetmusic might have been expected to result in the
participants adding less sweetness to their drink (since
some sweetness was provided by the music playing in the
Kontukoski et al.s [18] intriguing results fall some way
short of demonstrating that the nature of the music that
just so happens to be playing in the background in the res-
taurant (or, for that matter, home) kitchen will necessarily
bias the nature of the dishes that are made, or at the very
least, the seasoning that is applied. That said, these results
most certainly do represent a step in the right direction
when it comes to assessing such a claim empirically. It
will, then, be an intriguing question for future research to
determine what would happen if this particular study, or
one quite like it, were to be repeated with a new group of
participants. In this case, though, the participants would
simply be instructed to mix a drink to their own preferred
taste, while the background music was unobtrusively (and
incidentally) changed between sweet and sour from one
drink to the next or vice versa.
On the crossmodal correspondence between music and taste
Kontukoski et al.s [18] results can be framed in terms of
the growing literature highlighting the sometimes-
surprising crossmodal correspondences that exist in all
of us between the music we hear and certain specific
tastes, aromas, and flavours (e.g., [6, 14]). What this
means, in practice, is that by playing a certain piece of
music, our attention can be biased in terms of the ele-
ments (i.e., tastes and/or flavours) that we concentrate
on [7]. So, for example, play high pitched tinkling piano
or wind chimes and peoples attention will be drawn
toward the sweeter tastes in a dish. By contrast, play
lower pitched and/or brassy music and the bitter notes
of e.g., dark chocolate or coffee will be accentuated (see
[5, 43]). However, while attention may be a necessary pre-
condition for certain crossmodal correspondences to exert
their effect, it would seem likely that other correspon-
dences may operate in the absence of any explicit atten-
tion on the part of the participant to the component
unisensory stimuli.
Mood music
Now it is, of course, important to bear in mind here that
the taste of the music (i.e., whether it is sweetor
sour) is not the only way in which what we hear might
be expected to influence how we prepare or season the
food or drink. There is also the possibility that music
can induce a certain mood or emotion in those who
happen to be listening to it [17]. This, in turn, might be
expected to influence taste perception, and hence, the
way in which a chef seasons a dish [42]. So, for example,
it has been shown that a persons mood can influence
their ability to detect both olfactory (e.g., [31]) and gus-
tatory stimuli (Heath et al., 2006; [39]).
In one represen-
tative study, Pollatos et al. presented their participants
with pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral pictures from the
International Affective Picture System (IAPS) database.
After having viewed a selection of the unpleasant pic-
tures, the participantssensitivity to olfactory stimuli was
lowered, as a result of the negative emotional stimula-
tion. Elsewhere it has been shown that those individuals
who are anxious tend to be less sensitive to bitterness
and to salty tastes (Heath et al., 2006; [39]). Normal indi-
viduals who are stressed, meanwhile, show increased
sensitivity to the bitter taste of saccharin [8]. Emotion
has also been shown to affect olfactory perception [4].
It would not seem like too much of a stretch to im-
agine that certain kinds of background music might put
the chef (or whoever else happens to be in charge of
preparing or seasoning the food) in a particular mood,
either positive or negative. This, in turn, may be ex-
pected to subtly influence their taste/flavour perception,
and hence, the way in which they end up seasoning a
dish. Just such a suggestion was, in fact, captured some
years ago by Salman Rushdie in his prize-winning novel
Midnights Childrenwhen the narrator says ..and
Amina stirred her disappointments into a hot lime chut-
ney which never failed to bring tears to the eyes.([33],
p. 172). Given that our mood affects our perception of
the taste (and flavour) of food and drink, it would cer-
tainly be intriguing in future research to investigate
whether listening to an uplifting versus to a depressing
piece of music would really affect the way in which a
chef seasons his/her food. Certainly, the suggestion from
those eating in the restaurant itself is that if you get the
music right the food just tastes better. Just take the fol-
lowing, “…Im sitting in a restauranttheres music. You
know why they have music in restaurants? Because it
changes the taste of everything. If you select the right
kind of music, everything tastes good. Surely people who
work in restaurants know this…” ([21], pp. 8182).
Masking taste with loud noise
Finally, here, in terms of the putative mechanism(s)
underlying the crossmodal effect of music on taste, it is
Spence Flavour (2015) 4:25 Page 4 of 7
worth noting that loud sounds have been shown to sup-
press our ability to taste (see [41]). Here, think only of the
loud noise (c. 85 dB) of the engines on the airplane. Such
loud background noise suppresses the ability of people to
taste sweetness and saltiness, but counterintuitively en-
hances their ability to perceive the taste of umami ([46];
The problem of loud background noise is not re-
stricted to the air, though. The noise levels in many popu-
lar restaurants are, in fact, much louder. With the noise in
many restaurants (made up of both the background music
and the noise of animated conversation) coming in at 90
100 dB, it is no wonder that a growing number of restaur-
ant critics now include noise ratings alongside the quality
of the food (see [40], for a review).
It is, though, an open question as to whether this kind
of restaurant noise would exert the same idiosyncratic
effect on the perception of different tastes as the sound
of aircraft engines has recently been shown to do. Cross-
sensory masking is, then, a likely third route by which
what we hear changes what we taste and how much we
end up enjoying the experience.
Given what we have seen so far in this opinion piece,
one could easily start to become convinced that the test
kitchen in Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus Ohio
might really be on to something: According to one jour-
nalist who visited the site, each room has a different
sound, depending on the ice cream flavour that is cur-
rently being concocted. She continues, If employees are
languorously toasting marshmellows with a blowtorch,
you may hear Schubert. If theyre stirring ancient ingre-
dients like frankincense and honey and almonds for one
of the holiday flavors, the backdrop may be the somber,
runic ballads of a Danish singer named Agnes Obel.
Summery, cake-studded batches come to life to bright
and shiny pop by the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry,
Madonna, and Nicki Minaj.[12].
Over-and-above any role that the music has in motiv-
ating ones staff to keep chopping, then, one has to won-
der whether the chef in charge of the restaurant might
not also want to match the music playing in the kitchen
to the dishes/sauces that they happen to be preparing?
As this opinion piece has hopefully made clear, profes-
sional chefs hold very different views concerning the ap-
propriateness of music in the kitchens they run. While
some chefs cannot cook without it, others have banned it
entirely from the kitchens they operate. That said, my
sense from the literature is that music has become a more
common feature of restaurant kitchens in recent years.
Not in all of them, for sure, but certainly in a growing pro-
portion. The evidence that has started to emerge now
demonstrates that what we hear, be we a chef or home
cook, can, at least in certain cases, influence the way in
which we season the food. This might be as the result of
the crossmodal correspondence between the sonic proper-
ties of the music and taste/flavour perception. Alterna-
tively, however, it might also result from the potential
mood-altering or emotion-inducing effect of music and
the consequent effect of mood/emotion on taste/aroma
perception. Finally, it is certainly important not to forget
the suppressive effect of overly loud background noise on
taste perception (what is referred to by some as crossmo-
dal masking; see [40], for a review). Of course, over-and-
above any effect that music has on the way the chef sea-
sons the food, it is important not to neglect musicsmotiv-
ational role, its ability to alleviate boredom, and perhaps
also its role in creative problem solving (e.g., [11, 45]).
In closing, there may be those out there who may
be wondering why we should care about what, if any-
thing, the chefs play in the kitchen. Well, the evidence
reviewed here certainly suggests the musical trends in
the kitchen are increasingly making their way into the
dining rooms of many a popular restaurant [40]. Fur-
thermore, given that what we hear can influence what
we taste, and hence, how the person in the kitchen cre-
ates/seasons the dish, one might be tempted to speculate
about whether the same music should also be played in
the spaces (e.g., the restaurant or home dining room)
where that food will be consumed. This perhaps surpris-
ing suggestion was first captured by First [10] in a piece
where it was stated that Certainly, if the way the food
tastes, and how much we like the experience really is in-
fluenced by the music that happens to be playing in the
background then it might well make sense to adopt the
strategy of playing exactly the same music in the
kitchens as in the dining room.
However, that said, one should always remember that
No matter how elegant the food at a restaurant, the
music that plays as its prepared is likely to be less re-
fined. No one is listening to Vivaldi as he buffs baby veg-
etables and dismembers ducks[10]! Having said that,
though, there are certainly some commentators out
there who would be tempted to argue that whatever the
music, it has to be better than the muzak that has been
playing for too long in so many of the restaurants
around the developed world [16, 22].
Though, there are many out there who believe that
that is exactly where such music should stay (i.e., in the
kitchen; e.g., see [30]; [40]).
However, given that the chef starts his book with the
following: Not sure what beat will get the party started?
Well, Ive taken the liberty of suggesting the perfect
music-recipe pairings. These suggestions are the result
Spence Flavour (2015) 4:25 Page 5 of 7
of rigorous experimenting and consultations with MIT
sound scientistsactually, I just made them up. While I
cant say with any certainty that listening to the sug-
gested tunes enhances the flavour of a dish, I can tell
you that you walk (and cook) taller when you have
theme music.([28], p. 14), perhaps we shouldnt take
his musical choices as indicating anything more than
merely personal preference.
Samuelssons approach is not to be confused with that
of Linsey Pollak, an artist/performer who makes musical
instruments out of vegetables (e.g., see http://www.lin-
According to research by Mehta et al. [25], a moder-
ate level of background noise (c. 70 dB) can be condu-
cive to problem solving (at least when compared to a
50 dB quiet condition).
Though, here it has to be admitted that defining
complexitywhen it comes to flavour is no simple mat-
ter. Immediately, one might think of chemical complex-
ity [32]. However, it is important to note that there is no
simple mapping between chemical complexity and per-
ceived complexity ([36-37]; [38]). Here, in the text, I
have in mind perceived complexity.
Analysis of the musical selections showed that the
sour pieces were both rougher and brighter than the
sweet musical selections. Roughness here refers to the
sensory dissonance in the music, whereas brightness re-
fers to the proportion of high-frequency spectral energy
in the piece (see also [15]).
Note that in this between-participants study, each of
the participants only heard one piece of music.
Taking things even further, those individuals who suffer
from a mood disorder, or else suffer from major depres-
sion, have been shown to find it harder to detect olfactory
and gustatory stimuli. That is, their sensory thresholds ac-
tually increase (e.g., Heath et al., 2006; [20]; [27]; [45]).
There is, of course, a danger of tautology here, in that
what counts as the right musicis defined by its having
a positive impact on peoples experience of the taste/fla-
vour of the food.
As to why background noise should have different
effects on different tastes is not currently known. One
possibility suggested by Yan and Dando [45] is that there
may be some interference from the auditory nerves on
those that transmit information about the taste of food
and drink from mouth to brain.
It should be noted here that while the term muzak
is used in everyday language as a pejorative term for
background music that the listener does not like, it is
the more precise usage of the term that is being referred
to here (see [19]).
Competing interests
The author declares that he has no competing interests.
CS would like to acknowledge the AHRC Rethinking the Senses grant
(AH/L007053/1). Written informed consent was obtained for publication of
this manuscript and accompanying images.
Received: 21 May 2015 Accepted: 30 June 2015
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... Much like chefs slaving away in the kitchen [55][56], surgeons often like to have music playing in the background while operating on their patients [57][58]. Intriguingly, when Pennsylvanian surgeon Evan Kane first wrote a brief note to the JAMA, as cited by Bosanquet et al. [59], in which he declared himself a keen supporter of the "benefic [sic] effects of the phonograph within the operating room," his concern was primarily with "calming and distracting the patient from the horror of their situation," rather than distracting/relaxing the surgeon and or his/her team in the operating room [59]. ...
... The key point to note here is that all that noise is likely to impair the patients' ability to, if not enjoy, at least to experience the food as acceptable and hence to achieve a nutritionally-balanced diet. In addition, noise-cancelling headphones might help not only with the reduction of ambient noise, but also provide for the addition of music and/or soundscapes to the dining experience [56,173]. While the use of headphones in some instances might be beneficial, it should be noted that their use obviously reduces the opportunity for socialization at mealtimes, when socialization is something that many older patients desperately want/need [183]. ...
A large and growing body of empirical research now demonstrates the positive impact that music and other auditory stimuli (such as nature soundscapes) can have across the entire spectrum of the healthcare ecosystem. From the point of entry and onward to the operating room/theatre, in the peri-operational environment, patient wards, and medical waiting rooms, music affects all of those who hear it: Patients, their families, surgeons, caregivers, and hospital staff alike. In the age of the “experience economy,” where patients are considered both guests and consumers, private healthcare is increasingly starting to focus on customer satisfaction, and its impact on both financial performance and (not unrelated) health outcomes. In this review, we summarize the latest evidence concerning the impact of music, soundscapes, and noise, on medical outcomes and healthcare provision. We highlight the importance of the auditory (and, ultimately, the multisensory) environment, not only for health and well-being, but also in terms of improving patient satisfaction and managing costs.KEYWORDS: MUSIC; MEDICINE; ATMOSPHERICS; SOUNDSCAPES
... One group of individuals who are rarely discussed in studies of experimental atmospherics are the employees (though see Bitner, 1992, for an exception). In a number of such cases, there is a very real danger that those atmospheres that may do the most to help to promote sales (such as playing loud fast music) may be unhealthy for those who work there, such as the staff in bars and restaurants that often exceed 100 dB on noise (Spence, 2015). ...
Purpose Atmospherics is undoubtedly a multi-sensory concept, despite mostly being studied on a sense-by-sense basis by architects, sensory marketers and urban designers alike. That is, our experience is nearly always the result of cross-modal/multi-sensory interactions between what we see, hear, smell and feel in a given space. As such, it is critical that researchers study the senses in concert. That said, the few empirical studies that have attempted to assess the impact of deliberately combining the senses in a retail/health-care environment have typically failed to deliver the multi-sensory boost to experience (or sales) that the multi-sensory science predicts ought to be observed. Invoking notions of processing fluency, sensory overload and sensory (in-) congruency in the field of multi-sensory atmospherics may help to explain what happened (or went wrong) in such cases. Design/methodology/approach Critical review of literature on atmospherics and sensory marketing, highlighting various difficulties of interpretation and challenges to accepted conclusions. Findings Atmospherics is a fundamentally multi-sensory concept, and cross-modal interactions are the rule, not the exception. As such, researchers need to study atmospherics in a multi-sensory context. Originality/value This critical commentary highlights the need for researchers to consider atmospherics from a multi-sensory, rather than sense-by-sense perspective.
... At the same time, however, there has also been increasing interest from modernist chefs (e.g., Marinetti, 1932Marinetti, /2014Spence and Youssef, 2016;Youssef et al., 2019; see also Leonor et al., 2018), and even an airline, in matching nature sounds to the food they serve (see 4 ; Silva, 2019). 5 In addition, the growing awareness of the potentially positive influence of sonic factors over tasting experiences has taken place in the context of an increased understanding of, and complaints about, the deleterious effects of background noise on multisensory tasting experiences (e.g., Spence, 2015b;Bravo-Moncayo et al., 2020;Freeman, 2021;see Spence, 2014, for a review). ...
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The term "sonic seasoning" refers to the deliberate pairing of sound/music with taste/flavour in order to enhance, or modify, the multisensory tasting experience. Although the recognition that people experience a multitude of crossmodal correspondences between stimuli in the auditory and chemical senses originally emerged from the psychophysics laboratory, the last decade has seen an explosion of interest in the use and application of sonic seasoning research findings, in a range of multisensory experiential events and online offerings. These marketing-led activations have included a variety of different approaches, from curating pre-composed music selections that have the appropriate sonic qualities (such as pitch or timbre), to the composition of bespoke music/soundscapes that match the specific taste/flavour of particular food or beverage products. Moreover, given that our experience of flavour often changes over time and frequently contains multiple distinct elements, there is also scope to more closely match the sonic seasoning to the temporal evolution of the various components (or notes) of the flavour experience. We review a number of case studies of the use of sonic seasoning, highlighting some of the challenges and opportunities associated with the various approaches, and consider the intriguing interplay between physical and digital (online) experiences. Taken together, the various examples reviewed here help to illustrate the growing commercial relevance of sonic seasoning research.
... Other forwardthinking chefs, meanwhile, have even gone so far as to include a musical recommendation for each of the recipes in their cookbooks (e.g., see Pelaccio, 2012). Relevant here, it has been suggested that the emotion evoked by listening to music can influence how we end-up seasoning a dish or making a drink, and hence even perhaps also how strong a coffee we go for (see Spence and Piqueras-Fiszman, 2014;Spence, 2015c). Researchers have demonstrated that listening to specially chosen prerecorded pieces of classical music (chosen, in this case, because they could easily be associated with either a sweet, or sour taste) biased the sweet-sour balance when participants were tasked with making a well-balanced drink given a range of sweet and sour ingredients to blend together (Kontukoski et al., 2015). ...
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The coffee drinking experience undoubtedly depends greatly on the quality of the coffee bean and the method of preparation. However, beyond the product-intrinsic qualities of the beverage itself, there are also a host of other product-extrinsic factors that have been shown to influence the coffee-drinking experience. This review summarizes the influence of everything from the multisensory atmosphere through to the sound of coffee preparation, and from the typeface on the coffee packaging through the drinking vessel. Furthermore, the emerging science around sonic seasoning, whereby specific pieces of music or soundscapes, either pre-composed or bespoke, are used to bring out specific aspects in the taste (e.g., sweetness or bitterness) or aroma/flavor (nutty, dark chocolate, dried fruit notes, etc.) of a coffee beverage is also discussed in depth. Relevant related research with other complex drinks such as beer and wine are also mentioned where relevant.
... Meanwhile, loud noise has been shown to suppress our ability to taste sweetness, while enhancing the taste of umami (Spence, 2014;Spence, Michel, & Smith, 2014a;Yan & Dando, 2015). Music and soundscapes can also induce a change in the mood or emotion of the listener (Juslin & Sloboda, 2010;Konečni, 2008; see also Crisinel & Spence, 2012b), and this too has also been shown to affect certain aspects of taste perception (see Spence, 2015b, for a review). Soundscapes such as the sound of the sea, as served at Heston Blumen-thal's The Fat Duck restaurant in Bray have also been shown to enhance the pleasantness of a matching seafood dish while having no effect on perceived saltiness (see Spence et al., 2011). ...
Although often considered as the forgotten flavour sense, what we hear – be it music, soundscape, or product sound – influences what we taste. For instance, loud noise has been shown to suppress our ability to taste sweetness, while enhancing the taste of umami. Furthermore, many studies have demonstrated sensation transference effects, whereby what we think about what we hear (and the ideas/concepts primed by such music or soundscapes), can be transferred to whatever we happen to be tasting. The emotions that can be induced by music can also influence the experience of taste. In this presentation, though, I want to take a closer look at the specific way in which what we hear influences what we taste: In particular, the focus will be on the latest research showing that the crossmodal correspondences between music and tastes, textures, aromas, and flavours can be systematically used to direct a listener’s attention to certain elements within the tasting experience. I will demonstrate how chefs, sound designers, culinary artists, brands, and psychologists are becoming increasingly interested in modifying the taste of food and drink through sound – think of it as digital, or sonic, seasoning. I will also stress why contemporary gastronomy and sensory apps offer a rich opportunity both to advance our theoretical understanding in this area, and also to impact consumer behaviour more generally.
... sweeter and less bitter) while listening to the sweet soundtrack than while listening to the bitter soundtrack. Since then, a number of studies have demonstrated the sonic seasoning effect with specially designed soundscapes that altered the taste and even mouthfeel attributes of various foods and beverages (e.g., Reinoso Carvalho et al., 2015;Spence, 2015;Wang, Keller, & Spence, 2017;. ...
Recent evidence demonstrates that the presentation of crossmodally corresponding auditory stimuli can modulate the taste and hedonic evaluation of various foods (an effect often called "sonic seasoning"). To further understand the mechanism underpinning such crossmodal effects, the time at which a soundtrack was presented relative to tasting was manipulated in a series of experiments. Participants heard two soundtracks corresponding to sweet and bitter tastes either exclusively during or after chocolate tasting (Experiment 1) or during and before chocolate tasting (Experiment 2). The results revealed that the soundtracks affected chocolate taste ratings only if they were presented before or during tasting but not if they were heard after tasting. Moreover, participants' individual soundtrack-taste association mediated the strength of the sonic seasoning effect. These results therefore imply that the modulatory effect of sound on taste was not driven by retrospective interpretation of the taste experience, but by mechanisms such as priming and crossmodal association. Taken together, these studies demonstrate the complex interplay of cognitive mechanisms that likely underlie sonic seasoning effects. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
... The musical 'accompaniments' for each dish were listed on the menu alongside the dish and wine pairing (cf. Spence, 2015d). ...
The phenomenon of synaesthesia has undoubtedly proved a great inspiration to a number of artists, designers, and marketers for more than a century now. In fact, novelists, poets, composers, and painters, such as Nabokov, Baudelaire, Scriabin, and Kandinsky, all used synaesthetic correspondences to inform their world-famous artworks. By contrast, chefs, the best of whom are increasingly being considered as artists in their own right, rarely seem to reference the condition in their culinary creations. This situation is, though, slowly starting to change, as a small but growing number of innovative chefs take the surprising cross-sensory connections exemplified by synaesthesia, and the related phenomenon of crossmodal correspondences, as a source of culinary inspiration and aid to menu design. Illustrating this new approach, we summarize Synaesthesia, a multisensory dining concept that was presented to diners by Kitchen Theory in London in 2015. The recipes for this multicourse tasting menu are provided and a number of the key experimental findings, based on the dishes that were served, discussed. The popularity of this culinary concept highlights the potential of the synaesthesia/crossmodal correspondences approach to stimulate both the chefs as well as the diners they serve. Synaesthesia constituted a delicious form of edible ‘edutainment’. According to press reports, many diners came away from this tasting menu with their curiosity having been stirred. The hope is that they also learnt something about how their senses function together in order to deliver the rich multisensory experiences of everyday life, no matter whether or not they themselves happened to be synaesthetic.
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Based on the contrastive analysis of selected recipes represented in various media, such as cookbooks, television culinary shows and ASMR videos, this article seeks to provide an overview of numerous roles, ranging from informative through performative to artistic-aesthetic, which sound plays in contexts of transmitting culinary knowledge and depicting culinary skills. In line with the findings of sound studies, phenomenology, and postphenomenology, the authors aim to present both the material dimension of sound, mainly brought to existence by the techniques and technologies used and its aesthetic-artistic dimension actualized in a performative act. In this article, it has been demonstrated, following Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s and Melissa Van Drie’s observations, that sensory experiences in culinary contexts are always intertwined, and “listening, like cooking, is multisensorial.” While this research draws primarily on the concepts developed within the field of sound studies, it is interdisciplinary in nature and can be situated within the academic fields of culinary history and food studies, history of everyday life, and philosophy of technology.
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Eating and drinking are undoubtedly amongst life’s most multisensory experiences. Take, for instance, the enjoyment of flavor, which is one of the most important elements of such experiences, resulting from the integration of gustatory, (retronasal) olfactory, and possibly also trigeminal/oral-somatosensory cues. Nevertheless, researchers have suggested that all our senses can influence the way in which we perceive flavor, not to mention our eating and drinking experiences. For instance, the color and shape of the food, the background sonic/noise cues in our eating environments, and/or the sounds associated with mastication can all influence our perception and enjoyment of our eating and drinking experiences. Human-Food Interaction (HFI) research has been growing steadily in recent years. Research into multisensory interactions designed to create, modify, and/or enhance our food-related experiences is one of the core areas of HFI (Multisensory HFI or MHFI). The aim being to further our understanding of the principles that govern the systematic connections between the senses in the context of HFI. In this Research Topic, we called for investigations and applications of systems that create new, or enhance already existing, multisensory eating and drinking experiences (what can be considered the “hacking” of food experiences) in the context of HFI. Moreover, we were also interested in those works that focus on or are based on the principles governing the systematic connections that exist between the senses. HFI also involves the experiencing of food interactions digitally in remote locations. Therefore, we were also interested in sensing and actuation interfaces, new communication mediums, and persisting and retrieving technologies for human food interactions. Enhancing social interactions to augment the eating experience is another issue we wanted to see addressed here, what has been referred to as “digital commensality”.
The Náttúra dining concept developed by Kitchen Theory ran from September to December 2014 in London. It was inspired by the New Nordic Cuisine Manifesto which has influenced not only cuisine in the Nordic countries but international gastronomy more broadly for a number of years now. This multisensory dining concept incorporated dishes that have subsequently appeared in peer-reviewed academic research, including in this journal, thus highlighting the potential of practice-led gastrophysics research (as in research that was designed to optimize the eye-appeal of the plating of one of the dishes served on the menu). By incorporating different nature/natural sounds with each pair of courses (namely the sounds of the earth, wind, fire, and water), this multisensory dining concept bridges the contemporary interest in ‘sonic seasoning’ and the increasingly common approach of incorporating atmospheric soundscapes into gastronomic dining experiences. At the same time, nature videos projected onto the wall of the dining room, together with the use of atmospheric ambient aromas incorporated into several of the dishes further helped to transport guests to a range of different immersive multisensory environments, all loosely connected by an Icelandic theme.
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Noise is currently the second most common complaint amongst restaurant-goers, behind poor service. In fact, over the last decade or two, many restaurants have become so loud that some critics now regularly report on the noise levels alongside the quality of the food. In this review, I first highlight the growing problem of noise in restaurants and bars and look at the possible causes. I then critically evaluate the laboratory-based research that has examined the effect of loud background noise on taste perception. I distinguish between the effect of noise on the taste, aroma/flavour, and textural properties of food and drink. Taken together, the evidence now clearly demonstrates that both background noise and loud music can impair our ability to taste food and drink. It would appear that noise selectively impairs the ability to detect tastes such as sweet and sour while leaving certain other taste and flavour experiences relatively unaffected. Possible neuroscientific explanations for such effects are outlined, and directions for future research highlighted. Finally, having identified the growing problem with noise in restaurants, I end by looking at some of the possible solutions and touch on the concept of silent dining.
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Our sense of taste can be influenced by our other senses, with several groups having explored the effects of olfactory, visual, or tactile stimulation on what we perceive as taste. Research into multisensory, or crossmodal perception has rarely linked our sense of taste with that of audition. In our study, 48 participants in a crossover experiment sampled multiple concentrations of solutions of 5 prototypic tastants, during conditions with or without broad spectrum auditory stimulation, simulating that of airline cabin noise. Airline cabins are an unusual environment, in which food is consumed routinely under extreme noise conditions, often over 85 dB, and in which the perceived quality of food is often criticized. Participants rated the intensity of solutions representing varying concentrations of the 5 basic tastes on the general Labeled Magnitude Scale. No difference in intensity ratings was evident between the control and sound condition for salty, sour, or bitter tastes. Likewise, panelists did not perform differently during sound conditions when rating tactile, visual, or auditory stimulation, or in reaction time tests. Interestingly, sweet taste intensity was rated progressively lower, whereas the perception of umami taste was augmented during the experimental sound condition, to a progressively greater degree with increasing concentration. We postulate that this effect arises from mechanostimulation of the chorda tympani nerve, which transits directly across the tympanic membrane of the middle ear.
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This paper examines how ambient noise, an important environmental variable, can affect creativity. Results from five experiments demonstrate that a moderate (70 dB) versus low (50 dB) level of ambient noise enhances performance on creative tasks and increases the buying likelihood of innovative products. A high level of noise (85 dB), on the other hand, hurts creativity. Process measures reveal that a moderate (vs. low) level of noise increases processing difficulty, inducing a higher construal level and thus promoting abstract processing, which subsequently leads to higher creativity. A high level of noise, however, reduces the extent of information processing and thus impairs creativity.
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Purpose – This paper aims to extend current understanding concerning the cross-modal correspondences between sounds and tastes by introducing new research tools and experimental data to study associations and their reflections between music and taste. Design/methodology/approach – The experiment design addresses the multidisciplinary approach by using cultural, chemical and statistical analysis methods. Findings – The paper provides further evidence that exposure to the “sweet” or “sour” musical pieces influences people’s food-related thinking processes and behaviors. It also demonstrates that sweet or sour elements in the music may reflect to actual sweetness (as measured by sugar content) and sourness (as measured by organic acid content) of foods developed in association with music carrying similar taste characteristics. Research limitations/implications – The findings should be replicated and expanded using larger consumer samples and wider repertoires of “taste music” and dependent variables. Also, the level of experimental control should be improved; e.g., the “sweet” and “sour” music were produced using different instruments, which may have an influence to the results. Practical implications – Ambient “taste music” that is congruent with the basic flavors of the dishes can be played in restaurants to highlight guests’ sensory experience. Social implications – By carefully considering the symbolic meanings of the music used in different social situations, it is possible to create multimodal experiences and even subconscious expectations in people’ minds. Originality/value – Cross-modal associations are made between the tastes and music. This can influence on perception of food and provide new ways to build multimodal gastronomic experiences.
Full-text available
Background Wine writers sometimes compare wines to pieces of music, a particular musical style or artist, or even to specific musical parameters. To date, though, it is unclear whether such comparisons merely reflect the idiosyncratic matches of the writers concerned or whether instead they reflect more general crossmodal matching tendencies that would also be shared by others (e.g., social drinkers). In our first experiment, we looked for any consensual patterns of crossmodal matching across a group of 24 participants who were presented with four distinctive wines to taste. In our second experiment, three of the wines were presented with and without music and 26 participants were asked to rate the perceived sweetness, acidity, alcohol level, fruitiness, tannin level, and their own enjoyment of the wines.
Background and AimsComplexity is a multidimensional and poorly defined term that is frequently employed to characterise wine sensorially. The present study aimed to investigate the sensorial nature of perceived complexity in wine as a function of domain-specific expertise.Methods and ResultsEighty-seven French participants (16 wine professionals, 30 connoisseurs and 41 wine consumers) evaluated 13 Sauvignon Blanc wines. The wines were produced in New Zealand as part of a project aimed at increasing perceived complexity in Sauvignon wines. Participants evaluated the wines by free sorting and by judging complexity via a questionnaire. Sorting behaviour across groups was similar qualitatively, but significant differences were observed in variability between wine professionals and consumers. Complexity questionnaire data showed differences in ratings as a function of both participant expertise and wine.Conclusions The results are more in keeping with theories that perceived complexity is associated with aspects of harmony and wine balance, rather than with perceptual separability of wine components.Significance of the StudyThe current work reports innovative methodology and new information that furthers the field of sensory science, and specifically investigation of complexity in wine.
Have you ever wondered whether the atmosphere of a restaurant can influence the taste of the food that you eat? The music, the lighting, the aroma/fragrance and even the temperature all contribute to establishing the feel of a restaurant. However, while many people intuitively believe that the environment in which they eat has little direct influence on their perception of the food, the evidence reviewed in this chapter shows unequivocally that this is not the case. Here we review the large body of empirical research into how the atmosphere and context affect the overall dining experience, not to mention the taste and flavour of the food itself. We will look at those studies that have investigated what impact the visual, the auditory, the olfactory and even the tactile aspects of the environment have on the experience of dining. We will review both laboratory-based research and real-world studies of the effects of the multisensory atmospherics on people's food and drink-related behaviours, investigating whether there are certain obesogenic environments that result in us eating more. The research that has been published to date unequivocally demonstrates that the atmosphere in a restaurant, or wherever else we choose to eat, really does have a dramatic effect on our perception of food and drink. It can profoundly influence our food behaviours and can even influence how much we end up eating.
This article constitutes a state-of-the-art review of the literature on the effects of expectations on the sensory perception of food and drink by humans. In the ‘Introduction’, we summarize the theoretical models of expectations that have been put forward. In the ‘Empirical research utilizing direct methods’ section, we describe the influence that expectations created by a variety of product extrinsic cues have on sensory perception, hedonic appraisal, and intake/consumption. We critically evaluate the evidence that has emerged from both laboratory studies and real-world research conducted in the setting of the restaurant, canteen, and bar. This literature review is focused primarily on those studies that have demonstrated an effect on tasting. Crucially, this review goes beyond previous work in the area by highlighting the relevant cognitive neuroscience literature (see the section ‘Applied research through the lens of cognitive neuroscience methods’) and the postulated psychological mechanisms of expectation in terms of recent accounts of predictive coding and Bayesian decision theory (see the ‘Predictive coding and expectations’ section).