This Christmas, dimming your dining room lights could be the key to dry turkey tasting amazing 

In experiments, scientists in the US investigated what effect lighting levels can have on people’s enjoyment of food.   

Researchers discovered that dimming ambient light’subconsciously influences perceptions’, tricking the brain to think sweet or salty food taste better. 

However, the effect seems to be weaker when eating foods that combines multiple tastes – such as sweet and salty popcorn or sweet and sour Asian dishes. 

A Christmas meal with all the trimmings can be a difficult feat to pull off, with overboiled veg and dried-out meat being potential pitfalls for the home chef. New research investigated what effect lighting levels can have on people’s enjoyment of food

The Christmas feast with all its trimmings is not easy. Dried-out meat and overboiled vegetables are two potential problems for the home cook. New research investigated what effect lighting levels can have on people’s enjoyment of food





– Bitter 


A Japanese scientist first discovered Umami in 1908. The Japanese scientist who discovered Umami in 1908 translated it as “pleasant, savoury flavor”.  

The study was led by Sarah Lefebvre, a specialist in food and beverage consumption behaviours at Murray State University, Kentucky, and two other US-based experts.

These findings seem to be contrary to a 2020 study that found dimming restaurant lighting can make food taste less good.   

‘Based on our findings, venues serving single taste dimension foods can dim their lighting to reduce visual input and enhance taste perceptions,’ the team say in their paper, published in Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services. 

This can be applied to movie theatres that offer snacks with a variety of sweet and salty tastes, such as popcorn or candy. 

The researchers provided food for more than 300 people over the three-part experiment. The participants ate with either dark-tinted glasses or clear glasses in the two first experiments.  

The darkened sunglasses served as a ‘manipulation of visual input’ to mimic dimmed lighting found in restaurants, while the clear lenses acted as the control condition.

Ever wondered why restaunts dim the lights? It might help improve perceptions of how food tastes

You might be wondering why restaurateurs dim the lights. Perhaps it helps to improve your perception of what food tastes like

Participants were first given pieces of chocolate and asked to rate their taste using a 7-point scale. 

In the first two experiments, participants ate food while fitted with either glasses with dark lenses or glasses with clear lenses (pictured)

Participants ate their food with glasses that had dark or clear lenses.

The second experiment involved snack items with sweet or salty tastes and different textures and consistency. Participants then rated the snacks on a seven point scale. 

These snack options included cookies (sweet, chewy), raisins (sweetened and chewy), cheese (salty & chewy) and potato chips.  

The method of the third experiment was altered. The room’s luminance was altered by researchers, rather than participants being given glasses.

Also, they were given plain salty popcorn which acted as a ‘single dimension food’ (salty), and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which served as a ‘multi-dimensional food’ taste (sweet and salty), before likewise rating their meal on a seven-point scale. 

The researchers concluded that the visual input from the dark lenses had a marginally positive effect on taste perceptions. 

Researchers found the effect was reduced in force when a food contained multiple taste dimensions (i.e., sweet and salty, or sweet and sour). Pictured is sweet and sour chicken

Research showed that the effects were less powerful when food had multiple flavor dimensions, such as sweet and salty and sweet and sour. Sweet and sour chicken is shown in the picture


A 2020 study found that dimming the restaurant’s lights could make your meal taste less good. 

The study’s authors found that guests who were exposed to bright light perceived the taste as being more intense than those exposed to dark light.

Perhaps this was because bright light can make colours pop, which could also be linked to taste and flavour perceptions. 

Read more: Dimming restaurant lights can compromise food’s taste, study finds 

In the third experiment, when sampling a single-flavor food in a dimly lit room, results replicated the results of the first two experiments – participants rated taste higher under dimmer conditions. 

The room lighting did not affect the taste of sweet or salty foods (the jelly sandwich and peanut butter), however.  

This means that dim lighting had a less positive impact on food with multiple tastes (sweet and salty), than it did for foods just sweet. However, this effect is not clear.   

Low light may cause signals to be sent to the brain that can alter how we perceive taste.  

The research made the distinction between taste and flavour – two terms that are often used interchangeably but are quite different.  

Smell is responsible for our brain registering hundreds if not thousands of different flavours, while the five tastes – salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami – register on the tongue. 

Umami was first identified in Japan by a researcher in 1908. It is used to describe rich and meaty foods like beef, broths, and yeast extracts such as Marmite. 

The team suggests that further research may be done to determine the effects of ambient lighting on the perception of umami, bitter, and sour foods. 

Our perception of food is affected by lighting and noise. 

The team says that some US restaurants, including Washington, DC’s Mastro’s Steakhouse and San Francisco’s Opaque, use near-complete darkness or complete darkness to enhance the flavours of food.    

According to a 2010 study, consumers who were served larger meals in dark rooms ate 36% more.    

Other research published in 2004 also identified that the colour of a room to impact the amount of food consumed by diners.  

Loud Restaurants Put a Bad Taste in Diners’ Mouths  

According to a study, the noise level at restaurants can affect how much you like your meal.

Flinders University in Australia, Acoustics experts investigated how a patron felt under different levels of background noise.

Music at 30 decibels increases the likeability of food, while music at 40 decibels decreases it to only 38 percent.

Also, the team discovered that road noises and restaurant patrons losing their appetites at any level were causing them to lose their appetite.

Flinders University investigated whether noise in a restaurant can affect the quality of the food.

Mahmoud alamir (lead author, Flinders University PhD student) said that relaxing music at low levels can increase food enjoyment, but that it is also possible to make diners feel uncomfortable in restaurants.

“We don’t always recognize the cumulative effects of noise on our stress levels or annoyance levels. But we do see that each of us is sensitive to noise differently. 

The article was published in Food Quality and Preference.