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Study: A Plate's Shape and Color Influences Taste Perception

Posted: October 30, 2013

A recent study has found that plate shape and plate color do interact to influence taste perceptions so much that food presented on a white round plate will be perceived as sweeter.

The study "Plate shape and colour interact to influence taste and quality judgments," which appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Flavour, said basic judgments (that is, sweetness or intensity) are enhanced by white round plates while more complex judgments (that is, quality or liking) are enhanced by both white round and black square plates. 

Peter Stewart and Erica Goss, the authors of the study, said although the findings may be due to specific learned associations or some sort of familiarity/novelty effect, "regardless of what is driving this effect, the knowledge that plate shape and plate color do interact to influence taste perceptions is important to the culinary industry. Chefs certainly want their food to taste a certain way. Knowing that food presented on a white round plate will be perceived as sweeter, for example, would allow them to modify the sweetness levels of their product such that the desired level of perceived sweetness is achieved." 

Regarding sweetness ratings, the study revealed there was a "significant main effect of color" with cheesecake samples on white plates being rated as sweeter than those on black plates. There was no difference between the plate shapes for black plates. As with sweetness ratings, when compared to round black and square white plates, intensity ratings were significantly higher for round white plates. 

Further, the authors noted the results of this experiment suggest that the influence of plate color and shape on taste perception is, not surprisingly, more complex than expected.