Summary: Whether you stand up to eat or sit for dinner, your posture influences how much you enjoy your meal. Standing to eat mutes taste perception and reduces sensory sensitivity, resulting in a decreased enjoyment of food.
Source: University of South Florida
Summertime is often filled with outdoor parties and food trucks, meaning you’re spending more time standing up and eating. But if you want to actually enjoy your meal, researchers say you’re better off finding a seat.
A new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research finds posture impacts taste perception, with food tasting better when you’re sitting down. Lead author Dipayan Biswas, PhD, professor of marketing at the University of South Florida, is an expert in cross-modal effects and looked specifically at how the vestibular sense, which is responsible for balance, posture and spatial orientation, interacts with the gustatory sensory system, which impacts taste and flavor.
He found that holding a standing posture for even a few minutes prompts physical stress, muting taste buds. The force of gravity pushes blood to the lower parts of the body, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood back up to the top of the body, accelerating heart rate. This activates the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and leads to increased concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol. This chain reaction reduces sensory sensitivity, which impacts food and beverage taste evaluation, food temperature perception and overall consumption volume.
When people experience discomfort, foods that normally taste good do not appear as pleasant to the palate. Biswas confirmed his hypothesis by having 350 participants rate the tastiness of a pita chip. Those who were standing gave it a less favorable rating than those who were sitting in a padded chair.
Researchers then provided participants classic bite-sized brownies baked at a local restaurant that were tested and widely considered pleasant tasting. Those who were sitting down rated them to be most delicious. However, when the baker altered the recipe and made the taste unpleasant by adding an extra ¼ cup of salt, the results were opposite. Participants standing up didn’t notice the brownies tasting saltier to that extent, and actually rated them to have a relatively more favorable taste perception than those who sampled them while sitting down.
“This finding suggests that parents might be able to make unpleasant-tasting, healthy foods seem more palatable to reluctant children by having them eat standing up (vs. sitting down). In a similar vein, it might be beneficial to maintain a standing posture when consuming pharmaceutical products that have unpleasant tastes.”
Biswas expanded the study by inducing additional stress. He required the participants to try fruit snacks while carrying a shopping bag, mimicking what happens when one tries samples at a grocery store or in a food court. Both sitting and standing participants reported the additional weight made the food item taste even worse. This highlights the underlying mechanism related to physical stress driving the effects of posture on taste evaluations.
In addition, the team tested posture’s impact on temperature perception. Participants were provided cups of hot coffee. Those standing up reported it not being as intense as those who were sitting down. However, they drank less than those sitting, suggesting physical stress suppresses appetite. Eating while standing can also help with long-term weight loss goals. Specifically, eating while standing (vs. sitting) leads to lower amount of consumption. Moreover, a standing position leads to greater physical stress, which in turn makes the heart pump more blood.
University of South Florida
Tina Meketa – University of South Florida
The image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Open access
“Extending the Boundaries of Sensory Marketing and Examining the Sixth Sensory System: Effects of Vestibular Sensations for Sitting versus Standing Postures on Food Taste Perception”. Dipayan Biswas, Courtney Szocs, Annika Abell.
Journal of Consumer Research. doi:10.1093/jcr/ucz018
Extending the Boundaries of Sensory Marketing and Examining the Sixth Sensory System: Effects of Vestibular Sensations for Sitting versus Standing Postures on Food Taste Perception
Prior research has examined the role of the traditional five sensory systems (visual, olfactory, haptic, auditory, and gustatory) and how they influence food evaluations. This research extends the boundaries of sensory marketing by examining the effects of the vestibular system, often referred to as the “sixth sensory system,” which is responsible for balance and posture. The results of six experiments show that vestibular sensations related to posture (i.e., sitting vs. standing) influence food taste perceptions. Specifically, standing (vs. sitting) postures induce greater physical stress on the body, which in turn decreases sensory sensitivity. As a result, when eating in a standing (vs. sitting) posture, consumers rate the taste of pleasant-tasting foods and beverages as less favorable, the temperature as less intense, and they consume smaller amounts. The effects of posture on taste perception are reversed for unpleasant-tasting foods.
These findings have conceptual implications for broadening the frontiers of sensory marketing and for the effects of sensory systems on food taste perceptions. Given the increasing trend toward eating while standing, the findings also have practical implications for restaurant, retail, and other food-service environment designs.