When you gulp down beer, it's not just getting you tipsy. With every sip, your brain, ears and taste buds dance a delicate tango to appreciate the flavors involved and process what you're tasting. As it turns out, that's a lot more subjective than you've ever realized.
New research from Vrije Universiteit Brussel tests the connection between music and perception of taste. In a series of three experiments, participants listened to different kinds of music while tasting the same beer several times without being told it was the same one.
When the music was a high-pitched, “Disney-style” tune, the beer drinkers thought each beer was a little sweeter. Music that seemed a little more maudlin with heavy bass made taste-testers perceive bitterness in their brews.
It's not due to the types of beers involved, either. Head researcher Felipe Carvalho tested 340 people using a Belgian pale ale, a blonde ale and a tripel with alcohol contents ranging from 4.5 to 8 percent. Participants tasted each beer twice (once in each kind of music) and perceived them wildly differently both times.
So, maybe your Miller High Life (The Champagne of Beers) isn't actually disgusting. It's the pairing it with Desiigner's “Panda” that's the problem. Instead, add money to the jukebox and play Ariana Grande all night -- surely, the rest of the bar will understand.
Jokes aside, Top 40 tunes are where Carvalho plans to head next. He'll attempt to replicate the results of the study using popular music. He is also working on a similar study with chocolate instead of beer.
The Washington Post notes this isn't the first study to prove a connection between ears and taste buds. When it comes to chips, for example, a louder crunch is nearly always associated with a fresher product.
And, indeed, Carvalho sees possible uses for his work in modern approaches to nutrition. If you can convince someone that food is sweeter than they think, he reasons, why not do it and save them the health problems? In the US alone, the average person chomps down on more than 130 pounds of sugar a year, according to 2012 data.
Want to feel a little bit better about your diet? Maybe play some Katy Perry in the background.