Thursday, February 24, 2011

Perception Deception

On Tuesday, February 22nd, dietetics students from the Nutrition Seminar class set up a booth at the NIRSA National Fitness Day in the Rec Center. The students’ booth displayed serving of several cereals and beverages with visuals showing products’ sugar content. Those that visited the booth could pick up a sugar fact sheet, the newest edition of the Nutrition in the News newsletter, and participate in the students tasting experiment.

Ninety-five participants took part in the tasting. Participants were asked to answer a short poll after sampling three beverages. The poll asked participants to identify the flavor of the beverage, which one was different and which one they preferred. Cup A contained Crystal Lite Lemonade. Cups B and C both contained Country Time Lemonade. Both drinks were dyed red with food dye so they looked the same. Only 15.8% correctly identified the flavor as either pink lemonade or lemonade. Another 14.7% thought the beverage was lemonade but that it was a flavored lemonade such as strawberry. The most popular flavor choice was fruit punch, 27.4%. The remaining 42.1% thought the flavor was strawberry, cherry, melon, or a different citrus flavor. The inability to identify the flavor correctly, and to choose a flavor that is normally red chose the influence color has on are perception of flavor.

About 44% of the participants correctly chose A and 44.2% incorrectly identified B as the different sample. Many of the participants after trying B remarked that it was definitely the sweetest even though it was identical to C, possible because B tasted different when tasted directly after A.

Cup A was preferred by the majority (43%) of participants, followed by C with 32.3% of the vote. However, the results showed that the majority of participants (57%) preferred Country Time Lemonade to the Crystal Lite version, since cups B and C were the same. While there were no differences for preferences between the age groups, there was a gender difference. More men preferred B, while relatively few women preferred B and their preference was split between A and C (p = .013). Thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth and participated in the experiment!

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