Clarifying the Effects of Flavor Expectations on a Food's Perceived Taste
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The appearance of food helps guide a consumer's expectation of taste, but it is the prior experiences of the taste buds that foster perceptions of taste. Color and odor are unique and significant to being able to conjure up specific expectations of flavor (Cardello, 2007). Colored foods involve top-down processing, where people associate the colors with past experiences and develop a flavor expectation before they even taste it (ex: the color purple with grape flavor). Though research conducted thus far supports the fact that colored drinks are associated with specific flavors, "...whether the flavor expectations held by an individual do indeed lead to the misidentification of a food or drinks flavor or aroma..." remains unclear (Zampini et al., 2007; Spence et al., 2009). After observing subjects and recording their flavor expectations of colored Rice Krispies Treats in correlation with their perceived tastes, the results show that the presence of color can create the illusion of tasting a flavor that matches the color of a food, regardless of whether that flavor is similar or discrepant to the actual flavor. By contrasting these identifications and misidentifications with the real flavors, it is evident that top-down processing occurs.