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Love Makes Everything Taste Sweeter

Update Date: Oct 17, 2013 01:30 PM EDT
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Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses isn't the only side effect of love. Scientists recently discovered that being in love alters taste by sweetening the flavor of what we eat and drink.

Scientists at the University of Singapore conducted several experiments to see if different emotions pair with different tastes.

One experiment had participants rate how emotions like love and jealousy related to different tastes like sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty.

In another experiment, participants were asked to write down two answers to an open-ended question: If love were a taste, what would it be?

Afterwards, researchers recruited a new set of participants who were primed to feel either love or jealousy before eating sweet and sour candy and bittersweet chocolate samples. Participants were primed to feel different emotions by writing a personal experience about romantic love or romantic jealousy. Participants in the control group were asked to write neutral essays on landmarks in Singapore. Participants were later asked to rate the taste of their treats. Those who wrote about romantic love reported their treats as sweeter than the jealously or control groups. However, this experiment didn't find evidence that jealousy makes candy taste more bitter or sour.

In the last experiment, another fresh set of participants were brought into the lab to taste a "new product" that was actually just distilled water. Participants were primed to feel love, jealousy or happiness.  The findings revealed that thinking about romantic love seemed to make the plain water taste sweeter than thinking about jealousy of happiness.

Researchers believe that the findings could have something to do with the shared neural reward circuitry associated with experiencing both love and sweetness. Previous research revealed that the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region involved in anticipating reward, activates when we look at pictures of romantic partners and when we taste sugar.

"These findings imply that emotions can influence basic perceptual judgments," researchers wrote in the study.

"It is possible that when one experiences love, the anterior cingulate cortex would activate representations associated with sweetness, thereby eliciting sweetness sensations even without actual sweetness input," lead author Kai Qin Chan told Real Clear Science.

The findings are published in the journal Emotion.

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