Taste sensitivity and aesthetic preferences: Is taste only a metaphor?

C. Dewall, Paul Silvia, David Schurtz, Jessica McKenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


"Taste" is often used to describe sensitivity to both foods and visual art. We examined whether a biological marker of physical taste sensitivity influenced aesthetic preferences. In three studies, we measured physical taste sensitivity by exposing participants to the chemical phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) and having them rate how bitter it tasted (if they tasted it at all). Across all studies, miscalibrated physical taste sensitivity (extremely high and low taste bud density) related to extreme negative responses to disturbing and provocative artwork. Miscalibrated physical taste sensitivity was related specifically to avoiding (high disgust) disturbing artwork, but not to approach-related negative affect (anger). These findings provide novel evidence regarding biological influences on aesthetic preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-189
Number of pages19
JournalEmpirical Studies of the Arts
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Music
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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