The Interactive Effect Of Cultural Symbols And Human Values On Taste Evaluation
A research study examining the symbolic meaning of foods and beverages found that when participants tasted meat, they were more what influenced by what they thought they had eaten than what they had actually eaten. The study’s authors conclude that “Participants who ate the vegetarian alternative did not rate the taste and aroma less favorably than those who ate the beef product. Instead, what influenced taste evaluation was what they thought they had eaten and whether that food symbolized values that they personally supported.”
Meat has an association with social power and those who scored high in the authors’ Social Power Value Endorsement were more likely to believe that a meat-based item tasted better than a vegetarian alternative, even when both products taste identical. A similar finding was found between Pepsi and a low-price cola (Woolworth), where the participants thought both were Pepsi.
These findings may support new methods to promote better eating habits. For example, strategies that may persuade meat eaters to change their diet include changing the cultural associations of fruits and vegetables to those that meat eaters currently associate with meat (power and strength). Blind taste tests conducted in grocery stores might also challenge tasters’ perceptions.