Food scientists at Cornell University have revealed how the emotional status of an individual – particularly in competitive environments – affects their ability to perceive taste. They explained how individuals in a negative state of mind tend to crave for more sweets than those who are emotionally optimistic. The findings were published in the journal Appetite under the title ‘The Effect of Emotional State on Taste Perception’.

Performing The Study

Robin Dando, Assistant Professor of Food Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences conducted the study along with Corinna Noel, a doctoral student in food science. Dando explained that they observed the effect of emotions – the results of college hockey players in this case – on the perception of sweet, bitter, salty, sour and umami (savoury) tastes. They also assessed, on a hedonic rating scale, the extent to which the participants liked or disliked the taste of foods while experiencing a particular emotion.

Interesting Results about Emotional Cravings

“Emotional manipulations in the form of pleasantly or unpleasantly perceived real-life events can influence the perception of taste, strongly influencing the acceptability of foods,” explained Dando. “The results imply that such modulation of taste perception could promote emotional eating when experiencing negative emotion”.

Moreover, it was seen that everyday emotions also affected and altered the hedonic experience of less-liked foods, suggesting an association with emotional eating. Dando stated that when negative emotions take over, foods that are less preferred under normal circumstances become even more unappealing, whereas foods that are hedonically pleasurable under normal emotion states appear to be more appealing. This explains why when the team wins; they’re okay with regular routine foods. But when they lose, they’ll be reaching for the ice cream.