Tasting food is something we do without even thinking about it. Our sense of taste tells us that we like certain foods or that we dislike others. But what is taste exactly and how does it really work? Have you ever stopped to think about the way your brain deciphers this information?
The chemical signals and reactions
Actually, four “official” categories, salty, sweet, sour, bitter and a fifth “unofficial” one named umami, are involved in the perception of a combination of chemical signals all across the mouth. A mix of food and saliva creates a chemical reaction that stimulates the sensation of taste. Your taste buds, sensory organs located in the mouth, are the ones that send the signal to your brain.
The senses and factors that intervene
But taste also includes the way food looks as well as how it smells, and those three senses combined maximize the experience. Therefore, there are other components involved like temperature, texture and, of course, flavor. Those are the foundation for food preferences, and they usually begin very early in life, even before birth. There are four main factors that intervene:
- Environmental influences (cultures, social classes, etc.)
- Learned behaviors (food preferences)
- Mother influences (what our mother ate or drank while pregnant and breastfeeding)
- Innate factors (the instinct that tells us that the food isn’t good anymore)
There is also a common misconception about taste that says that each part of the tongue specifically perceives a category of tastes. This notion was demolished in 1974 by a scientist named Virginia Collings. She proved that any type of tastes was equally detectable all over the tongue, although certain areas of the tongue are more sensitive to a particular kind of tastes.
To learn more information about the science of taste, check out the infographic below, created by foodydirect, where you will find numerous facts on how we experience taste and what happens inside our body so we can experience it. With this infographic, you will also discover why you have a “sweet tooth” or why you like peanuts so much!
Click on infographic to enlarge
|The Science of Taste via Foody Direct|
Photo credit: Billy Wilson Photography/Flickr