Hot and round: How temperature and shape impact the multisensory appreciation of cornmeal

Journal Article
Author(s): Charles Spence
Year: 2024

Rounded shapes are significantly more liked and are typically also evaluated as warmer and sweeter than angular shapes/foods. Here, we assessed the temperature-shape crossmodal pairing for cornmeal. In a between-participants experimental design conducted in an ecologically-valid restaurant setting, we investigated the appreciation of differently-shaped pieces of cornmeal (rounded vs. rectangular) for different serving temperatures (room-temperature vs. hot presentation). 282 participants (165 female, mean age of 37 years, SD = 11 years, age range 17–62 years) tasted the cornmeal and evaluated it with respect to several sensorial qualities (i.e., temperature, wetness, texture, elasticity, and liking) and indicated the perceived dominant taste from amongst the five basic tastes. The results highlight that when tasted hot, cornmeal is evaluated as being significantly wetter, softer, as well as more elastic. As expected, irrespective of the actual serving temperature, the rounded form of presentation is preferred to the rectangular serving of cornmeal. The cornmeal was evaluated as tasting salty, with the umami taste also significantly attributed only to the rectangular cornmeal when served at room-temperature. A further control study conducted with a sample of 30 participants tasting pieces of irregularly-shaped room-temperature cornmeal further demonstrated the salty and umami taste of the cornmeal sampled in the present study. These results highlight the importance of serving temperature and how temperature interacts with food shape. The findings are discussed in the context of current theories of crossmodal correspondences, with consideration of the importance of temperature perception in gastronomic settings.