Saturday, June 3, 2017

In Good Taste

Several years ago, while I was still in grad school and teaching college classes regularly, I attended a workshop at the Association for Psychological Science Teaching Institute (which occurs right before the full APS conference). The workshop was a demonstration of different taste perception activities one could use in either an introductory psychology or sensation & perception course. One activity used paper that had been soaked in a bitter tasting chemical (probably phenylthiocarbamide); you placed the paper on the tip of your tongue. This activity allows people to identify whether they're a "super-taster" meaning they have a lot of bitter tastebuds. My reaction to the bitter taste was immediate, meaning I'm a super-taster. I was also one of the youngest people in the room, and the person running the workshop went on to share that children have more bitter tastebuds than adults, which may explain why they don't tend to like bitter-tasting foods, like brussel sprouts or broccoli, as much as adults.

Our tastes really do change over time, and there's also a lot of individual differences when it comes to taste, even among people from the same age-group. This month's FiveThirtyEight Sparks podcast involves a discussion about differences in taste, as well as an interview with Bob Holmes, author of Flavor: The Science of Our Most Neglected Sense:

The group also does some flavor tripping. We did a little of that in the APS workshop, and a few years ago I attended a flavor tripping party with a few friends.

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