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The influence of the artistic visual presentation of food on the dining experience

The use of artistic (visual) influences can enhance a diner’s rating of the flavour of a dish. These results are consistent with previous findings, suggesting that visual display of a food can influence both a person’s expectations and their subsequent experience of a dish

Researchers have demonstrated that a variety of visual factors, such as the colour and balance of the elements on a plate, can influence a diner’s perception of, and response to, food. Here, we report on a study designed to assess whether placing the culinary elements of a dish in an art-inspired manner would modify the diner’s expectations and hence their experience of food. The dish, a salad, was arranged in one of three different presentations: One simply plated (with all of the elements of the salad tossed together), another with the elements arranged to look like one of Kandinsky’s paintings, and a third arrangement in which the elements were organized in a neat (but non-artistic) manner. The participants answered two questionnaires, one presented prior to and the other after eating the dish, to evaluate their expectations and actual sensory experience.

Prior to consumption, the art-inspired presentation resulted in the food being considered as more artistic, more complex, and more liked than either of the other presentations. The participants were also willing to pay more for the Kandinsky-inspired plating. Interestingly, after consumption, the results revealed higher tastiness ratings for the art-inspired presentation.

The results of the study reported here provide evidence for the idea that there are differences in the expectations and consumption experience of a dish as a result of the various elements having been artistically arranged on the plate. Diners intuitively attribute an artistic value to the food, find it more complex and like it more when the culinary elements are arranged to look like an abstract-art painting. More importantly, people are ready to pay more for the food when it is presented in an aesthetically pleasing manner, both before and after trying it. Interestingly, consuming the artistically arranged dish enhanced people’s assessment of the palatability of the food.

Taking these results into account, it could be assumed that the diner’s hedonic and sensory perception of a dish is influenced by the expectations that have been established by visual cues. Complexity and neatness could be key aspects to produce an aesthetic display of ingredients. Furthermore, the positive values set by visual cues seem to be transferred to the perceived flavour of foods. Here, researchers argue that using artistic inspiration in the design of the culinary experience, even when used implicitly, can indeed enhance the enjoyment of food.

The visual appeal of food has been, and will always be, an important matter to entice the appetite, ultimately enhancing the flavours of culinary creations. While chefs rely mostly on their intuition and expertise to plate their dishes, researchers suggest that studying food presentations under the lens of psychology and sensory science could give precious insights to the so far empirical, art of plating.

‘Color is forever a part of our food, a visual element to which human eyes, minds, emotions and palates are sensitive. Perhaps through eons of time, man has come to build up strong and intuitive associations between what he sees and what he eats. A good meal, to say the least, is always a beautiful sight to behold.’ (Birren, 1963).

The electronic version of the scientific article can be found online at: http://www.flavourjournal.com/content/3/1/7

by R. T.
26 june 2014, Food & Fun > Gastronomy