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Loud Music Sweetens Booze

And this psychological effect encourages us to drink more, according to a new study.

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By Jennifer Matesa

12/15/11

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Here's something to watch at holiday parties: British researchers say music changes the way booze tastes, encouraging people to drink more. Loud music apparently makes alcoholic drinks seem sweeter than when no music is playing, or when it’s played alongside other distracting sounds. In the study—the first of its kind, published in the journal Food Quality and Preference and funded by Alcohol Research UK—80 subjects aged 18-28 ranked a variety of alcoholic drinks based on perceived strength, sweetness and bitterness. They had to complete this task while being subjected to different kinds of noise, ranging from silence, to loud club music, to music played along with a news report. The subjects ranked their drinks significantly sweeter when they were listening only to the loud music. Since our sense of taste has evolved to prefer sweetness—which signals higher calorie levels—music’s effect on drinking could be important, especially for folks who drink a lot in bars and clubs that spin loud songs. “Although individuals might well expect to consume more alcohol in club-type environments anyway,” says University of Portsmouth (UK) psychologist Dr. Lorenzo Stafford, a researcher on the study, “it is important that they understand how environment can potentially influence over-consumption and act accordingly.”

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