Researchers from the University of Minnesota found that performing small rituals before eating can actually enhance the taste of food.
Psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota found that during birthdays singing before cutting the cake not only makes the occasion more memorable but also enhances the taste of the cake. This led Vohs to wonder if other such rituals have similar effects on other food items. Hence, she and her colleagues conducted four experiments to investigate how these kinds of ritualistic behaviors might influence our perception and consumption of various foods.
For the first study, researchers gave the participants a chocolate bar to eat. Some of them were asked to first break the bar in the wrapper, then unwrap half the bar and eat the chocolate, after finishing they could unwrap the other half and eat it. The others were asked to relax for a while and then eat the chocolate in whichever way they wanted.
Researchers noted that the first group rated the taste of the chocolate higher and were even willing to pay more for it.
After conducting a similar second experiment, researchers found that random movements don't produce a more enjoyable eating experience, but repeated, episodic, and fixed behaviors do. Researchers found that a longer delay between performing the ritual and eating the food strengthens this effect and enhances the taste of food even more.
In the final two experiments researchers found that personal involvement in the ritual is very important and plan on seeing whether conducting such rituals have the same effect on other spheres of life.
"We are thinking of getting patients to perform rituals before a surgery and then measuring their pain post-operatively and how fast they heal," Vohs concluded in a press release.