The Influence of Posture on Taste: An Abstract
Sometimes, consumers eat while sitting down (e.g., at restaurants, on the couch). However, at other times consumers eat while standing (e.g., at cocktail parties). Would eating the same food while sitting (vs. standing) influence the perceived taste of the food? That is, how does posture influence taste evaluations?
This research draws on literature which shows that standing postures induce more physiological stress on the body than sitting postures (Abalan et al., 1992) as well as work which shows that stress decreases responsiveness to reward (Born et al., 2010). We predict that because standing (vs. sitting) postures lead to more physiological stress and decreased sensitivity to reward individuals who eat while standing will evaluate a food as having a less favorable taste than individuals who eat while sitting. Additionally, we predict that stress/tension will mediate the effects of stress on taste evaluations. We test these predictions in four experiments.
First, in Study 1 we have individuals sample a cookie while sitting (vs. standing) and find that individuals who sampled while sitting rated the cookie as better tasting. In Study 2, we replicate this basic effect using a different food item. Additionally, we provide physiological evidence that standing (vs. sitting) postures are associated with greater physiological stress. In Study 3 we provide additional evidence for the role of stress in driving the effects of posture on taste evaluations by showing that the effects hold when stress is not induced via a prime. However, when individuals complete a stressful task prior to sampling, taste evaluations among individuals who are seated are reduced, and there is no difference in taste based on posture. Finally, in Study 4 we show that inducing relaxation through ambient music can attenuate the effects of posture on taste.
Collectively, the results of four studies show that posture influences taste evaluations by inducing physiological stress when an individual stands. Thus, restaurants should encourage diners to sit down while eating or allow consumers to stand but play relaxing ambient music.