Food: Primary Research

Food is an extremely broad subject and when working with Anita and Shahid on this project, we decided to pinpoint a specific idea surrounding the topic. I suggested the idea of senses, particularly the sense of sound/hearing and how it affects the way we taste and experience our food, which the other members of the group agreed on.

We created a survey with 3 simple questions, in order to get an idea of how important people thought one’s hearing can be when eating. Between us, we asked a total of 54 people. Our subjects were both male and female and ranged from the ages of 15 to 62. The questions we asked and the graphs showing the results can be found below:

Question 1

From looking at this graph, one can easily come to the conclusion that the vast majority of people who answered this question think that smell is the most important sense when eating.

Question 2

As suspected, most people felt that sound was the least important sense when eating. In fact, 45 of the 54 surveyed rated a score of 5 or lower for the final question, showing that people generally don’t think the sound one’s food makes affects the way they taste it.

Question 3 (1 = not at all, 10 = a lot)

Now this survey only gave us an idea of what people thought about eating and didn’t necessarily prove anything. But what if they were actually eating food whilst answering questions about it? Would it change their mind?

So we created an experiment based on some of secondary research that we had done. The aim was to see if listening to music would affect how participants taste their food. So I bought two packets of crisps of the same flavour and this is how the experiment was supposed to go:

  • The participant would take a crisp out of one packet with their eyes closed
  • After eating it, they would rate the crunchiness of the crisp from 1-5 (1= not crunchy at all)
  • The participant would put on headphones and play on some music
  • They would close their eyes again and take a crisp from the second packet
  • They would rate the crunchiness again from 1-5

However this experiment didn’t work out very well due to many factors, one of them being that we only asked 4 people to take part. Two of the participants said that the crisps were less crunchy and the other two said it was more crunchy when music playing, which meant we couldn’t come to a conclusion. What’s more, we didn’t keep the variables consistent. For example, each person had different music playing and they were all in different environments. We intend to redo this experiment and I will be updating our results to this blog.

Given that my brother is an audiologist, I thought it would be a good idea to talk to him about this subject to see if he had any insight on the matter. The recording of the interview can be found here:

This interview was interesting as it gave us an insight into how our hearing works, especially in terms of how it affects our taste. It also allowed us to know where we went wrong with our experiment and how we could improve it. For example, we realised that we can’t make someone artificially deaf so we might change our approach to the experiment instead. In the interview, he and I discussed two ways of doing this. We could either get a deaf person and someone not hard of hearing, then compare how the food tastes to them. Another way would be to use ear plugs on our participants in order to heighten their hearing of their own voices etc. and then see if that made the food taste differently.

The former idea seemed less tangible than the latter, so I got 10 pairs of ear plugs from my brother. We managed to get 10 participants and sat them all at a table together. In front of them were 2 paper plates, both of which had a crisp on. These were the steps of the experiment:

  • Each participant ate a crisp from one of the plates with their eyes closed, while the room was quiet
  • After eating it, they rated the crunchiness of the crisp from 1-5 (1= not crunchy at all)
  • The participant put in their ear plugs and closed their eyes
  • The participant ate the crisp from the second plate
  • They rated the crunchiness again from 1-5

All the variables were kept consistent and we had more participants taking part and consequently, the results from this second experiment were a lot more telling when I collated the information.

Experiment 2.png

As you can see above, when our participants ate the crisps in their normal state, the average crunchiness was a 3.1. But with the earplugs, the crunchiness rose to a 4.2. From this I can come to the conclusion that if one’s hearing were to be heightened, their experience when eating could also be heightened.


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