Do You Have the Willpower to Taste Something Sour?
IntroductionHave you ever wondered if people of all ages love sour foods, or if age correlates with this preference? There are a lot of different kinds of sour candies and drinks you may have seen advertised before, some having only a mild sour flavor and others that are truly mouth-puckering! In this activity you will investigate if there is a difference between the sour preferences of kids and adults. If you developed a super-sour food, to whom would you try to sell it?
This activity is not appropriate for use as a science fair project. Good science fair projects have a stronger focus on controlling variables, taking accurate measurements, and analyzing data. To find a science fair project that is just right for you, browse our library of over 1,200 Science Fair Project Ideas or use the Topic Selection Wizard to get a personalized project recommendation.
BackgroundDo you know anyone who likes to eat lemons? Or loves really sour candies? Maybe you are one of those people? People have different definitions of what they find palatable, or tasty to eat. There are many different factors that go into deciding whether or not something is palatable. One of the biggest parts of that decision is how something tastes. Humans can sense five tastes: sour, salty, bitter, sweet and umami (oo-MAH-mee), which is the non-salty part of how soy sauce tastes.
Taste is detected by the taste buds that line the tongue and other parts of the mouth. Although there is some variation from person to person, the human tongue has an average of about 10,000 taste buds. Inside each taste bud are several receptor cells. These cells can sense the five different tastes and send that information to the brain.
In addition to taste, people think about several other factors when deciding if something is acceptable to eat. These include other components of flavor, such as how spicy a food is or how it smells, the texture and temperature of a food, and whether the food is something they like eating for cultural or personal reasons.
Extra: Try this activity again but use more volunteers, such as 15 adults and 15 kids. When using more volunteers, do you see a stronger taste preference trend?
Extra: In this activity you investigated preferences for the taste sour. But what kinds of preferences do people have for the other tastes (sweet, salty, bitter and umami)? Think of a way to test these other tastes and then try it out. Do kids and adults have different preferences for other tastes?
Extra: Does being a "picky" eater change how likely a person is to enjoy really sour foods? Find volunteers and ask if they're picky, normal or adventurous eaters. Try to get at least 10 people in each category. Then repeat this activity with them. Do you see any correlations between the kind of eater a person is and whether they enjoy very sour tastes?
Observations and ResultsDid the kid volunteers like sourer lemonade batches most, whereas the adult volunteers did not? Did the adult volunteers prefer less sour lemonade batches?
One job food scientists can have is working at companies to help design new foods. One of the things they have to do is conduct sensory analysis, which is the scientific process of determining how people react to different foods, and then make decisions about whether or not they like them. Food scientists already know a lot about people's food preferences. For example, they know that babies usually prefer sweet foods, like applesauce and sweet potatoes, over more bitter foods, like broccoli. They also know that Americans and Europeans like mint-flavored toothpastes, while people in China and Japan prefer their toothpastes to be fruit-flavored. But what about sour flavors? There are a lot of sour candies and drinks advertised on TV, in magazines and in other places that tempt kids, but not many of those advertisements make the foods sound appealing to adults. There as a good reason for this: in general, kids really do prefer sour tastes much more than adults do. In a study similar to this activity, researchers found that over one-third of kids tested preferred the sourest food tested, whereas virtually none of the adults preferred this food.
More to Explore
What are Taste Buds? from KidsHealth
Teisha Rowland, PhD, Science Buddies
Science Buddies |
Biology, taste, food preferences, age
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