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

In: Multisensory Research
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  • 1 Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3UD, UK

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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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