The effects of Color on Taste

Molly Daniel

A handout created for PSY 440 (Perception) field trip to a middleschool
Stephen F. Austin State University


Interesting Links

This site contains material about different responses to color. This includes culture, symbolism, vision, computers, and cars.

This site is about the rare condition synesthesia. Synesthesia isa difficulty distinguishing different sensory inputs. For example, asynestheste not only sees the color red, but might "smell" it,too.

This is an experiment performed by a SFA student. It is about howpeople have certain tastes that they like and how these tastesinfluence their preferences with food.

This site includes experiments you can do at home and the resultsfrom the original experiment.



Here are two experiments you can try:

(Both are from

1. Materials:

Does what you see influence what you taste? Find out here. Getfour different flavored sodas (fruity ones such as lemon, grape,cherry, etc.). These sodas should also be different colors. Also getone unflavored, clear soda (like, seltzer water). Add a few drops offood coloring to the unflavored, clear soda (orange works well). Thiswill make it LOOK like orange soda, but of course, it will NOT haveany taste. Pour the 5 drinks into different cups for taste testers.Ask people to tell you what each drink tastes like. How many peoplesaid your unflavored drink was "Orange"?

Food companies add color to food to influence what it tastes like.People like to see foods in colors that they expect.

2. Materials:

In this experiment, use jelly beans instead of soda. For eachsubject you test, you will need pairs of jelly beans. For example,get 2 cherry jelly beans, 2 lime jelly beans, 2 lemon jelly beans and2 orange jelly beans. Each jelly bean flavor has its own uniquecolor: red for cherry, green for lime, yellow for lemon and orangefor orange. Divide the jelly beans into two groups: each group shouldhave one of each flavor. Label small containers or napkins with thenumbers 1 through 4. Place the jelly beans from the first group intoa container or on a napkin - one jelly bean into each container or oneach napkin. Wrap the jelly beans in the second group in foil orplace them in a cup so that your subjects cannot see them. Labelthese cups with the numbers 1 through 4. Make sure that the flavorsof the second group have different numbers than the flavors in thefirst group. Now you are ready to start the experiment. If you want,you can tell your subject the names of the flavors that they will betested. In other words, you can say, "The jelly beans you taste willbe either cherry, orange, lime or lemon." Tell your subject to lookat the jelly bean in container #1 of the first group and then tastethe jelly bean. After they have tasted the jelly bean, tell yoursubject to write down its flavor. Do the same thing with jelly beans#2-#4. The next part of the experiment is a bit more difficult. Youmust keep the color of the jelly beans in group 2 hidden from yoursubjects. You can blindfold your subjects or have them close theireyes while they taste the jelly beans. Keep track of the flavors thatyour subjects say each jelly bean tastes like. You can even tell yoursubjects that the flavors they will taste will be the same as before.

What are the results? Did you subjects make any mistakes when theycould not see the color of the jelly bean? If they did, what was themost common mistake? What would happen if you used an unusual flavor?What would happen if you found a jelly bean with an abnormalcolor...for example a red-colored lemon-flavor jelly bean?

Heinz has been successful by changing the color of their ketchup. In 2000, green, purple, and a "mystery color" were introduced. Aftermuch success, in April 2003, blue was slated for production. Chefsare trained to use brightly colored entrees and garnishes. We usecolor to help determine food quality and how well it is cooked. Themold on bread and the off color of meats, fruits and vegetables arewarning signs for freshness. Most people learn and become familiarwith specific combinations of colors and tastes. These learnedassociations may alter our perceptions and create expectations abouthow a particular food should taste. When Subjects were able to seethe "correct" color of the drink, they were always able to identifythe drink correctly. On the other hand, when they could not see thecolor of the drink, they tended to make mistakes. The more color adrink had, the more intense it was said to be, especially with olderpeople. color affected flavor quality (how "true" it tasted) andoverall acceptability of the drink (how much people liked it). Changes in the color of the drink made people think that the flavorwas different.

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