An acquired taste often refers to an appreciation for a food or beverage that is unlikely to be enjoyed by a person who has not had substantial exposure to it, usually because of some unfamiliar aspect of the food or beverage, including a strong or strange odor (e.g. stinky tofu, durian, hákarl, black salt, natto, stinking toe, asafoetida, surströmming, or certain types of cheese), taste (such as alcoholic beverages, vegemite/marmite, bitter teas, salty liquorice, malt bread, unsweetened chocolate, garnatálg or natto), or appearance. Acquired taste may also refer to aesthetic tastes, such as taste in music or other forms of art.
Acquiring a taste
General acquisition of tastes
The process of acquiring a taste can involve developmental maturation, genetics (of both taste sensitivity and personality), family example, and biochemical reward properties of foods. Infants are born preferring sweet foods and rejecting sour and bitter tastes, and they develop a preference for salt at approximately 4 months. Neophobia (fear of novelty) tends to vary with age in predictable, but not linear, ways. Babies just beginning to eat solid foods generally accept a wide variety of foods, toddlers and young children are relatively neophobic towards food, and older children, adults, and the elderly are often adventurous eaters with wide-ranging tastes. Interestingly, the general personality trait of novelty-seeking does not necessarily correlate highly with willingness to try new foods. Level of food adventurousness may explain much of the variability of food preferences observed in "supertasters". Supertasters are highly sensitive to bitter, spicy, and pungent flavours, and some avoid them and like to eat only mild, plain foods, but many supertasters who have high food adventurousness enjoy these intense flavors and seek them out. Some chemicals or combinations of chemicals in foods provide both flavor and beneficial or enjoyable effects on the body and mind and may be reinforcing, leading to an acquired taste. A study that investigated the effect of adding caffeine and theobromine (active compounds in chocolate) vs. a placebo to identically-flavored drinks that participants tasted several times, yielded the development of a strong preference for the drink with the compounds.
Intentional acquisition of tastes
Intentionally changing one's preferences can be hard to accomplish. It usually requires a deliberate effort, acting as if one likes something in order to have the responses and feelings that will produce the desired taste. The challenge becomes one of distinguishing authentic or legitimate acquired tastes as a result of deeply considered preference changes from inauthentic ones motivated by status or conformity.
Some examples of tastes which normally need to be tried several times to "learn to like" are cruciferous vegetables, beer, coffee, goat cheese, caviar, olives, mate, Noon Chai and huitlacoche.
- Birch, L.L. (1999). Development of food preferences. Annual Review of Nutrition, 19, 41-62.
- Ullrich N.V., Touger-Decker R., O’Sullivan Maillot J., Tepper B.J. (2004) PROP taster status and self-perceived food adventurousness influence food preferences. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 104, 543-549.
- Smit, H.J. & Blackburn, R.J. (2005). Reinforcing effects of caffeine and theobromine as found in chocolate. Psychopharmacology, 181(1), 101-106.
- Bovens, Luc (1992)."Sour Grapes and Character Planning," Journal of Philosophy, Vol. LXXXIX, No. 2 and (1995). "The Intentional Acquisition of Mental States," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 4: 821-840.
- Otis, L.P. (1984). Factors influencing willingness to try new foods. Psychological Reports, 54, 739-745.