Just Two Words on a Cookie Label Can Mess Up How It Tastes, Study Finds

Human taste buds can be manipulated. Researchers have found that the same chocolate chip cookie can go from tasting delicious and moist to bitter and boring.

It depends on what the label says.

When 58 adults from Ohio State University were given three cookies to sample, the ones labeled "New and Improved" were deemed more delicious than the ones labeled "Consumer Complaint".

Despite the fact that all three cookies were exactly the same, both samples were perceived as having a different flavor and texture.

Christopher Simons is a food scientist at Ohio State University.

It is not surprising on one hand. The impact was really surprising.

Our love for cookies can easily be described as displeasing. Our brains immediately start looking for the negatives, a classic human bias that has been observed with other foods like cheese and vegetables.

The study shows that even highly likeable foods, like chocolate chip cookies, can leave a bad taste in our mouths when accompanied with certain words.

Researchers at Ohio State University found that the perceived taste of more neutral products, like saltines, are also impacted by the Consumer Complaint label.

The ratings were based on a 9-point scale, but participants were allowed to leave comments if they so wished.

The food samplers were more likely to leave a negative comment about the cookies than a positive one.

The authors write that the impact of an applied negative bias on the perception and liking of food products is robust.

Given the products tested are relatively simple, further research should examine the impact of applied negativity bias on more complex products.

If the results can be replicated in future studies with larger sample sizes and more varied product types, marketers might need to change their tactics. When a food product is tested with different types of packaging, the more positive packaging could be hiding some serious dislikes that could be revealed with more negative packaging.

Not all the taste factors were changed by the labels in the current study.

Saltine crackers were deemed to have the same taste, smell, and appearance as the other saltines even though they were labeled as a consumer complaint.

Some of the attributes that were unaffected by labels were color, chocolate, chip amount, and caramelized flavor.

The negative reviews of the cookies can be used to tease out some of the real drawbacks of the product, but the authors cannot say for certain.

It might be worth testing consumer responses to a negative label before putting a product on the market.

A negative label might allow us to perfect a recipe because of the human bias.

The study was published in a journal.