Vanilla yogurt found to spark positive emotional response

By Rebecca Burton • Published: February 11th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Do you look forward to that creamy, delicious yogurt to start your day in the morning?

A team of researchers from the Netherlands, Austria and Finland found that low-fat, vanilla yogurt can spark feelings of happiness.

As part of the study, three groups of at least 24 people were given two types of yogurt to taste. The brand of the yogurts was constant, but the fat and flavor content varied. During the taste test, each participant was observed for facial expression, eye movement and reaction time.

In addition, an emotive projection test was used to judge how participants were feeling. During this test, study participants were asked to view photographs of others and rate them on six positive and six negative traits. Because people tend to project their moods onto others, these ratings helped indicate the participants’ own moods.

The findings showed that while there was no difference in emotional response to various flavors, low-fat yogurts led to more positive emotions.

However, the vanilla flavor did evoke a significant positive emotional response. The authors suggest this mood-boosting ability has to do with the fragrance, supporting previous research that a faint vanilla scent in hospital waiting areas can create a calming mood.

The lead author of the study said that the method used in this research is just as important as the results. Previously in these types of food-emotion trials, participants were simply asked how they felt, which could lead to the expression of feelings that they might not have had originally. In this new method the means of measuring emotion is less obvious, and therefore more reliable.

The team hopes information about how consumers subconsciously respond to food can be valuable to product manufacturers. This could mean better smelling and tasting food in the future.