Think back to your most recent birthday, chances are, you enjoyed a delicious meal surrounded by friends and family. Now think about blowing the candles on your birthday cake while everyone sings Happy Birthday (most likely off-key), and how incredibly delicious everything tasted.
But apparently, the ritual of singing 'Happy Birthday' doesn't only make the moment more memorable, it can also improve the taste of the cake.
A new study from the University of Minnesota found that ritualistic behaviors like singing 'Happy Birthday' before you eat cake can actually make food taste better.
But it doesn't just apply to singing 'Happy Birthday,' it applies to any ritual — even the seemingly insignificant ones — before eating and drinking including saying Grace before a meal or waiting to eat a meal prepared by someone else.
During the study, researchers asked a group of volunteers to eat a chocolate bar by breaking it in half, unwrapping it halfway and eating that part before pulling off the rest of the wrapper and finishing the bar.
The researchers then had a second group of volunteers wait for a short period of time and then eat the chocolate bar however they wanted, without performing any ritual before consuming the chocolate bar.
According to the study, the volunteers from the first group gave the chocolate a higher rating, savoured the chocolate more, and said they would be willing to pay more for it than the other participants. The findings suggest that a short, fabricated ritual can produce real effects.
Furthermore, Kathleen Vohs, one of the researchers behind the study said,“Whenever I order an espresso, I take a sugar packet and shake it, open the packet and pour a teeny bit of sugar in, and then taste. It’s never enough sugar, so I then pour about half of the packet in. The thing is, this isn’t a functional ritual, I should just skip right to pouring in half the packet.”
While many might find this study silly or mundane, the researchers also included that performing rituals before significant moments could apply to other situations as well.
“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 says.
Source: Kiss 925