It’s important to focus on your food when you’re eating, and a new study out of Brigham Young University and Colorado State University found that by masking the sound of yourself eating through headphones, television or other noise sources, you might end up consuming more food than you otherwise would have.
Researchers for the study, published in Food Quality and Preference, found that the noise your food makes while you’re consuming it, otherwise referred to as sounds of “mastication” — which include sounds that come from chewing, chomping or crunching — can have a significant effect on how much food you eat. They’re calling it the “Crunch Effect,” and researchers suggest we’re more likely to eat less if we are aware of the sound produced by our food when we eat.
When we talk about topics such as “mindful eating,” we often focus on appreciating our food with our eyes and taste buds — but very rarely to do we remember our ears. This overlooked sense, researchers say, could be playing a more important role than we thought when it comes to food.
“For the most part, consumers and researchers have overlooked food sound as an important sensory cue in the eating experience,” said study coauthor Gina Mohr, an assistant professor of marketing at CSU.
“Sound is typically labeled as the forgotten food sense,” adds Ryan Elder, assistant professor of marketing at BYU’s Marriott School of Management. “But if people are more focused on the sound the food makes, it could reduce consumption.”
The team carried our three different experiments to measure if taking away the sound had an effect on how much the participants were consuming. They discovered that even when it was suggested that people think about the sound food makes, for example, through an advertisement on television, it made a difference in how many pretzels the participants ate.
“When you mask the sound of consumption, like when you watch TV while eating, you take away one of those senses and it may cause you to eat more than you would normally,” Elder said. “The effects many not seem huge–one less pretzel–but over the course of a week, month, or year, it could really add up.”
Elder and Mohr suggest that when eating, individuals focus on all of their senses — sight, touch, taste, smell and sound — because they all play a part in the process. Practice this the next time you’re eating, and share with us in the comments if you think it makes a difference.