‘Striking a Sour Note’: Assessing the Influence of Consonant and Dissonant Music on Taste Perception

in Multisensory Research
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We report two experiments designed to investigate the consequences of manipulating the harmonic content of background music on taste perception. The participants in the present study evaluated samples of mixed fruit juice whilst listening to soundtracks that had either been harmonised with consonant or dissonant musical intervals. Each sample of juice was rated on three computer-based scales: One scale was anchored with the words sour and sweet, while the other two scales involved hedonic ratings of the music and of the juice. The results of an internet-based pre-test revealed that participants reliably associated the consonant soundtracks with sweetness and the dissonant soundtracks with sourness. The results of the on-site experiments demonstrated that participants rated the juices as tasting significantly sweeter in the consonant than in the dissonant music condition, irrespective of the melody or instrumentation that were evaluated. These results therefore provide empirical support for the claim that the crossmodal correspondence between a higher level musical attribute (namely, harmony) and basic taste can be used to modify the evaluation of the taste of a drink.

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Figures
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    Melody A harmonised with consonant intervals (top) and dissonant intervals (bottom).

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    Mean ratings of sour–sweet, music pleasantness, and flavour pleasantness in Experiment 1, for the consonant and dissonant music conditions. The error bars represent the standard error of the means. Asterisks mark significant differences (p<0.05) between the consonant and dissonant music conditions.

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    Mean ratings on the sour–sweet scale (1 = very sour, 10 = very sweet) for all of the conditions in Experiment 1. The error bars represent the standard error of the means. Consonant melody A and dissonant melody B were significantly different according to post-hoc pairwise comparisons with Bonferroni correction.

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    Mean ratings of sour–sweet, music pleasantness, and flavour pleasantness in Experiment 2, for both consonant and dissonant music conditions. The error bars represent the standard error of the means. Asterisks indicate significant differences (p<0.05) between the consonant and dissonant music conditions.

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    Mean ratings on the sour–sweet scale (1 = very sour, 10 = very sweet) for all conditions in Experiment 2. Error bars represent the standard error of the means. Consonant trumpet and dissonant piano were significantly different in post-hoc pairwise comparisons with Bonferroni correction.

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