A recent study from Cornell University seems to back up with science what many of us have felt all along—your favorite sports team’s performance can have a major impact on your emotional state, and on your taste buds. Winning made even mediocre, unappealing food taste better, while losing made it taste worse.
The group of researchers took a close look at hockey fans, specifically, and how the outcome of college hockey games influenced fans’ perceptions of the 5 different tastes: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami. They also made note of basic, “hedonic” responses to food—essentially, whether the initial gut feeling towards a particular food was like or dislike.
After home games, fans participating in the study were given two sweet frozen treats—a salted caramel ice cream and a lemon-lime sorbet. In general, researchers saw that the initial response toward the salted caramel flavor was a big like, while people were less enthusiastic about the sorbet. But when the home team won, the participants gave the sorbet higher ratings than when their team fell short. In other words, when their team pulled out a victory, people found the less fattening, slightly better-for-them treat to be a little more appealing.
What’s even more intriguing certain flavors seemed to see bigger swings in approval after losses or wins, while fans felt the same about other flavors. Sweet tastes, for example, were sweeter and even more delicious after a win, while sour notes tasted even more intensely sour after a loss. Salty, umami, and bitter though, didn’t see much change in approval ratings, no matter how well (or poorly) the home team had performed.
The main takeaway: Our emotions do have an impact on how we taste and enjoy foods. So, that nacho-devouring rampage you went on last weekend when your team lost is totally justified. Science says so.