AUG 21, 2015 1:56 PM PDT

The Science of Taste

WRITTEN BY: Sarah Hertrich

Do you ever stop and think while you're eating, why do I like the way this tastes, or vice versa? According to Dr. Robin Dando at the University of Cornell, there are a number of factors that influence the way an individual perceives taste. Although taste is thought to be included as one of the senses, the ability to taste actually requires input from the other 4 senses as well. For example, research has found that if a food is plated a certain way it will taste different to us than if it was plated another way, which is why food presentation is so important in most restaurants. Dr. Dando also explains that we are able to smell our food from the back of our noses while the food is in our mouth.

Another major factor that determines one's sensitivity to taste is age. Children tend to have more sensitivities to bitter tastes, which indicates why children don't always like to eat their Brussel sprouts! Children tend to enjoy foods that contain a higher level of sweetness than most adults tend to enjoy. As people age they tend to lose their sense of smell and taste which is why older people are less sensitive to various flavors. The way people are brought up can also influence taste preference. For example, if you were raised in a culture who regularly enjoys spicy food, you may be less sensitive to spicy foods than others. Feelings or emotions can also change the way we perceive the taste of our food. Dr. Dando's research group found that serotonin receptors can be found within our taste buds indicating that feelings of happiness can be associated with good or bad taste.
About the Author
  • I am a postdoctoral researcher with interests in pre-harvest microbial food safety, nonthermal food processing technologies, zoonotic pathogens, and plant-microbe interactions. My current research projects involve the optimization of novel food processing technologies to reduce the number of foodborne pathogens on fresh produce. I am a food geek!
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