Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

vision, or visual cues—especially color—influence how we perceive what we eat. Even before our first bite, we anticipate what we will taste based upon how the food looks, and this anticipation can influence how we then experience the flavor. Darker-colored chocolate is perceived to have a more intense chocolate flavor than lighter-colored chocolate, and orange-colored chocolates can seem to have an orange flavor—but only if the person eating it thinks that the orange ones should taste orange. A green macaron might be pistachio, lime, or green tea-flavored, depending on the shade, but it is probably not infused with salted caramel or vanilla. In this case, the color creates an expectation about the flavor of the macaron. When the actual flavor is similar to the expectation, assimilation often occurs; people taste what they expect to taste, and an orange-flavored macaron that is colored green could easily be perceived as lime by many people. But when there is a larger discrepancy, such as with a green-colored but coffee-flavored macaron, contrast occurs and the mismatch is more often detected, to the delight or dismay of the consumer.