In a fascinating research study, participants relied on their sense of sound to judge just how crisp and fresh a batch of Pringles chips happened to be. What they didn’t know was that all the chips were of equal freshness. What they also didn’t know was that researchers tampered with sound so that some chips sounded less crisp and fresh than others.
The result? Participants deemed that chips with the loudest crunch were fresher (even though they weren’t): “The experiment was the first to successfully demonstrate that food could be made to taste different through the addition or subtraction of sound alone.” These findings help us understand the role our senses play in how we experience the world. And if you think they’re an anomaly, consider the following:
- strawberry-flavored mousse tastes 10% sweeter when served from a white container versus a black one
- coffee tastes nearly two times as intense but only two-thirds as sweet when drunk from a white mug rather than a clear glass one
- bittersweet toffee tastes 10% more bitter if it is eaten while you’re listening to low-pitched music
- a cookie seems harder and crunchier when served from a surface that has been sandpapered to a rough finish
So when it comes to learning, should we be asking if there are certain smells or scents that can relax math-phobic students? Are there colors that encourage learning or signal a shift from easy to more challenging, but in ways that support and encourage? What about texture and taste?
We know that some of the most habit-forming devices, apps, and games already do this. We’ve come to associate particular sounds, levels of push-click-swipe pressure, and even colors with certain levels of quality, fun, and efficiency online (to learn more about the characteristics of habit-forming tech, click here).
As we learn more about human behavior and the brain, I bet we’ll be integrating these kinds of findings into lots of learning experiences. I think it’ll be amazing.