OPEN Scientific reports | 15 Nov 2016
F Foroni, G Pergola and RI Rumiati
Non-human primates evaluate food quality based on brightness of red and green shades of color, with red signaling higher energy or greater protein content in fruits and leafs. Despite the strong association between food and other sensory modalities, humans, too, estimate critical food features, such as calorie content, from vision. Previous research primarily focused on the effects of color on taste/flavor identification and intensity judgments. However, whether evaluation of perceived calorie content and arousal in humans are biased by color has received comparatively less attention. In this study we showed that color content of food images predicts arousal and perceived calorie content reported when viewing food even when confounding variables were controlled for. Specifically, arousal positively co-varied with red-brightness, while green-brightness was negatively associated with arousal and perceived calorie content. This result holds for a large array of food comprising of natural food - where color likely predicts calorie content - and of transformed food where, instead, color is poorly diagnostic of energy content. Importantly, this pattern does not emerged with nonfood items. We conclude that in humans visual inspection of food is central to its evaluation and seems to partially engage the same basic system as non-human primates.
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