A Bitter Pill To Swallow: The Link Between Taste and Emotion

Friday, February 14, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

What does jealousy taste like? I'd guess like shit.

My guess would be wrong, much to the relief of jealous people everywhere. 

The sweetness of love, the bitterness of hatred, we've all heard the phrases. Through the years, many metaphors have been introduced which link taste sensation to emotional state. 

"He's so sweet it makes me want to gag." (That's what she said.)

So, is there scientific basis for this phenomenon? Researchers say, "Yes."

In a study published in the scientific journal "Emotion," researchers conducted three studies where subjects were induced into certain emotional states and their taste sensations recorded1. They found that the way a person felt at the time they ate something affected their perception of flavor. For example, participants in a lovey-dovey mood rated a number of different foods as sweeter than those in other states of mind. 

No wonder those Valentine's Day chocolates taste extra sweet. 

However, jealousy may not be such a bitter pill to swallow. Those dealing with envy did not have statistically significant differences in their taste perception. This may mean that while our senses may indeed be altered by how we feel, all manner of metaphor is not correct in the type of taste they induce. 

That means I can still say that jealousy tastes like shit, and not be obligated to describe what this actually tastes like. Yet, somehow, I think everyone will understand. 

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Citations

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24040883