Sounds spicy: Enhancing the evaluation of piquancy by means of a customised crossmodally congruent soundtrack
Wang Q., Keller S., Spence C.
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd The aim of the present research was to uncover the auditory parameters that correspond to the experience of spiciness/piquancy in food, and to assess whether such crossmodal correspondences have perceptual consequences when it comes to evaluating the spiciness of actual foods tested in a naturalistic environment. An online study (Experiment 1) was conducted first in order to determine the acoustical/musical parameters that best match spiciness. The results were used to compose a spicy soundscape that was incorporated into the subsequent experiments. Next, a between-participants study (Experiment 2) was conducted to test the effect of different background sound conditions on participants’ expected and actual ratings of a novel restaurant dish. Four sound conditions were used in testing: the aforementioned spicy soundtrack, a sweet soundtrack, white noise, and silence. The expected spiciness of the dish was significantly higher in the spicy soundscape group as compared to the other groups. However, no significant differences were observed in the actual taste ratings. A contributing factor to this later result may have been the large disparity between the participants’ expectations of spiciness and the actual (mild) spiciness of the test dish itself. To follow-up, a study (Experiment 3) was conducted with a spicier food sample and the same sound conditions. Here, the results revealed that the rated spiciness of the food sample was significantly higher in the spicy soundtrack condition than in the other sound conditions. Finally, a study using both mild and hot salsa (Experiment 4) demonstrated an interaction effect between the sound condition and stimuli spiciness level, consistent with the assimilation-contrast model of consumer expectation disconfirmation. These results therefore demonstrate that a soundscape with auditory attributes corresponding to spiciness can enhance the perception of spiciness in foods, likely via the setting of sensory expectations.