Alcohol tastes sweeter when loud music is playing and the noise could make it difficult for drinkers to judge how much they are consuming, new research has claimed.
Dr Lorenzo Stafford, a psychologist from the University of Portsmouth, conducted the first experimental study to find out how music can alter the taste of alcohol. He said: "Since humans have an innate preference for sweetness, these findings offer a plausible explanation as to why people consume more alcohol in noisy environments."
The expert said the research was a small-scale study, but claimed it had huge implications for those who drink alcohol in noisy environments. He explained: "It also has implications for bars, the drinks industry and local authorities."
The research has built on earlier observational research which found that people drank more alcohol and at a faster rate, if loud music was playing.
In Dr Stafford's study, 80 participants (69 females and 11 males aged between 18 and 28 and regular drinkers) had to rate a selection of drinks varying in alcohol content on the basis of alcohol strength, sweetness and bitterness. They were given one of four different levels of distraction, from no distraction to loud club-type music playing at the same time as reading a news report.
The tests found that drinks were rated significantly sweeter overall when participants were listening to music alone.
"The study found that sweetness perception of alcohol was significantly higher in the music compared to control and other distracting conditions, which is a novel finding and to our knowledge, not seen previously," Dr Stafford added.
"This is an interesting finding as we might have expected the music, in addition to repeating a news story, to exert a more distracting effect on taste judgment. It appears that our primary sense of taste is somewhat immune to very distracting conditions, but is indeed influenced by music alone.
"Researching multi-sensory perception is a growing field of study and an interesting area to explore. Although individuals might well expect to consume more alcohol in club type environments anyway, it is important they understand how environment can potentially influence over-consumption and act accordingly."
The findings are published in the journal Food Quality and Preference and the research was funded by Alcohol Research UK - a charity which aims to increase understanding of the harmful effects of alcohol.
UK Press Association
December 14, 2011