Ever wonder why people sing Happy Birthday before eating cake? Or propose toasts prior to a round of drinks? Well, new research suggests it may be because these and other pre-meal rituals actually make the food taste better.
The recent psychology study, led by Professor Kathleen Vohs at the University of Minnesota, asked subjects to perform a ritual prior to eating the food that they had been given. In one of the experiments, subjects were given a chocolate bar, were asked to break it in half without unwrapping it and eat it before eating the second half. The results found that subjects found the chocolate tastier after having performed the pre-chocolate ritual. A similar experiment was done with carrots. Finally, the researchers showed that watching someone else methodically mix powdered drinks does not make it taste any better, suggesting that personal involvement is key.
Vohs and her team cite what is called “intrinsic interest” – the idea that rituals get people more involved in what they are doing – as the main reason for the elevated tastiness. Vohs says that she hopes to expand her research on rituals to other facets of life, looking to study rituals performed before surgery and their influence on postoperative pain and the recovery process.
So the next time you’re sitting in front of a heaping plate of spaghetti, say a quick grace and enjoy it to the fullest.