A Bad Taste in Mouth

Have you ever considered that the taste may influence your moral perception? A recent study has found strong linkages of favorable moral judgments with a sweet taste in the mouth. The morality philosophers like Hume have previously suggested that moral judgments are not based on pure reason, rather they depend highly on the emotional state of the person. Yet this is the first time research has been conducted on the relation between moral judgment and taste in the mouth.

In a study people were told that the purpose of the experiment was to explore the effects of motor interference on cognitive processing. They were assigned one of three beverage types randomly, viz sweet, bitter and control. The participants did not know the type of beverage they were drinking and the control group was served only water.

They were asked to pass moral judgment on various moral transgressions ranging from second cousins engaging in consensual sex, congressman accepting a bribe to a person eating his already-dead dog. All participants received the same moral vignettes and the responses were recorded on a scale of not at all morally wrong to extremely morally wrong.

The results revealed a significant effect of beverage types, with the participants drinking bitter and disgusting tastes passing stronger judgment than rest. Disgusting tastes were found to be influencing the moral judgments to a higher degree. 

While this establishes the effect of taste on moral reasoning, it also raises some practical questions like whether the jurors deciding a case should avoid drinking bitter and unpleasant drinks.

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