Research highlight

Psychology: Sour tastes may encourage risky behaviour

Scientific Reports

June 8, 2018

Sour tastes may have the potential to encourage risk-taking behaviours, according to an initial study published in Scientific Reports.

Chi Thanh Vi and colleagues investigated the relationship between the five basic tastes and risk-taking behaviour using a gambling task. 70 participants in the UK (46 females and 24 males with an average age of 25) and 71 in Vietnam (45 females and 26 males with an average age of 20) were asked to drink a liquid that was either sour, sweet, umami, salty or bitter before taking part in a computerised gambling task. In the game, participants were asked to pump up a balloon with the potential to receive a monetary reward that increased as the balloon increased in size. To win the monetary reward, participants had to decide when to stop pumping up the balloon and ‘cash out’ before it exploded. Risky behaviour was defined based on the number of times the participant clicked to pump up the balloon. Those tasting a sour liquid clicked an average of 40 times, compared to between 20 and 30 pumps for those who tasted the other substances.

The authors suggest that further research is required to determine if a sour-reduced or sour-enriched diet could influence risk-taking behaviour.

doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-26164-3

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