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Publication: Ife Psychologia
Date published:
Language: English
PMID: 93408
ISSN: 11171421
Journal code: FPSY


Can you imagine what it would feel like and taste like to be presented with a plate of T^lue' rice, 'green' stew and yellow' beef? Most people would rather not attempt to taste it or would perceive the taste as being abnormal, because these are unusual colours for these items. From birth, nature teaches us to make judgments on our environment based on a large measure of colours. The association of certain colours with specific types of foods begins early in childhood and is maintained throughout life. Clydesdale (1993) specifies that the effect of colours on flavours most likely result from learned association rather than innate knowledge. Most people learn and become more familiar with specific combinations of colours and tastes. These learned associations might alter our perceptions and create expectations about how a particular food should taste.

The first taste is almost always perceived through the eyes. Although there are different features to a food item, visual appearance and colour is the most obvious stimulus. In assigning priority to sensory information, humans are visual animals. Given uncertainty or conflict in the sensory information we receive, we tend to depend most on what we see. Although we might think that the sense of odour and taste should predominate in terms of food perception, it is surprising, that a visual bias could also be important. This is because initial judgments of foods and beverages often rely on appearances. Our ability to identify even common flavours is typically poor, so vision may sometimes be a more reliable source of information. Visual information of foods provides important clues as to other sensory qualities, creating expectations about what we are about to eat. We learn to associate the appearance of a food with its other sensory qualities, and the impact of these associations is perhaps most obvious in the effects of food colours (Stillman, 1993). Whether an apple is red or green, for example, will lead us to expect a certain degree of ripeness and, often, quite specific levels of sweetness and acidity. Because of such associations, colours can influence what we perceive. Adding red colouring to a sweet solution increases the perceived sweetness, while the addition of any colour to a solution containing an odour increases how intense we perceive that odour to be repulsive (Zellner 8c Kautz, 1990).

The effect food colour has on taste perception reinforces the fact that perception is a cognitive process that receives information both from the sensory impact of food ingrethents and from other sources of information about the food. When people are able to see the "correct" colour of the drink, they were always able to identify the drink correctly. On the other hand, when they could not see the colour of the drink, they tend to make mistakes (Stillman, 1993). According to Francis (1995), colour affects flavour quality (how "true" it tastes) and the overall acceptability of the drink (how much people like it). Changes in the colour of a drink made people think the taste is different. Perception is the brain's organizing and interpreting of sensory information from the environment to give it its meaning. The process of perception does not just reveal objects and events in the environments because we can see light or colour in the waves that stimulate the eye. In the same way there is no music or noise in the vibration that stimulates the ear. Therefore, perception deals with how our brain interprets information obtained from the environment. "Perception has three levels detection, recognition and discrimination (Emma, 2001)." Knowledge about perception helps to understand humans better and to design systems or stimuli that interact with humans appropriately.

Perception in the different sensory realms does not occur in isolation (Zellner 8c Duralach, 2003). Evidence is accumulating that stimulation by one sense influences perception in another. (Schifferstein &Verlegh, 1996; Zellner 8c Kautz, 1990). The question then is "is there actually a relationship between the sense of taste and colour vision?" Taste is quite a complicated sense. Unfortunately, it is the least studied of all the senses. Taste is the ability to respond to dissolved molecules and ions on the tongue. Humans detect taste through the taste receptor cells, which are clustered in about 10,000 taste buds on the tongue. These taste buds respond primarily to chemicals that give rise to the sensations of sweetness e.g. sugar, sourness e.g. acids, saltiness and bitterness. But can the visual cues obtained from a drink, such as colour; have an effect on how our taste buds respond to the dissolved molecules of the drink? People have preconceived ideas about how drinks should look and taste. These preconceived ideas are as a result of pairing different colours with different fruit drinks and associating and expecting particular tastes from them. Because of these associations in the perception of taste, the use of colour additives could bring about a misleading effect on the perception of taste.

Colour also, has been found to have an effect on the perception of the intensity of flavours. Alley 8c Alley (1998) showed that specific colorings, colour intensity and colour related expectation could modify the impact of colour on taste. Flavour is the sensation realized when a food or beverage is placed in the mouth.

There is a general belief that as colour increases, taste and flavour intensity increases too. This may be because of our experience with beverages made from powders and concentrates which become weaker in flavour or taste as they become weaker in colour. We sometimes use colour to help determine food quality and how well it has been cooked. The mould on a loaf of bread and the off colour of meats, fruits and vegetables are warning signs of food decay. Colour is an indication of taste and flavour qualities such as freshness, over-ripeness and it is usually the primary attributes consumers consider in making purchasing decisions.

Knowing how food colour affects taste perception is very important to food companies and psychologists who are interested in studying consumer behavior. Food producers rely on these kinds of taste associations to help sell their products, and can change their customers' perceptions of how products will taste by manipulating its colour. A not so successful example of this type of marketing strategy was the introduction of crystal Pepsi in 1992. This colourless caffeine - free cola's failure to become popular was most commonly attributed to the inappropriateness or lack of associations between cola and no colour. It was difficult for consumers to imagine a cola being clear and some claimed it tasted like lemon-lime soda, even though those flavours were not in the beverage. Another example of colour manipulation by food producers to market their products is that of Heinz's coloured ketchups. Heinz has been successful in changing the colour of their tomato ketchup. In 2000, green, yellow and a "mystery colour" were introduced. After much success, April 2003, blue was added for production. One can imagine what blue tomato ketchup would taste like although colour is the only difference between it and the normal red colored tomato ketchups.

A person's first judgment of a drink is based on its colour. Therefore, food substances such as the fruit flavoured drinks have to look right which will lead to a decision of whether to consume or purchase such a drink. It is important for industrial psychologists to understand consumer behaviour and food makers or food processors, in order for them to meet the expectations of consumers. The knowledge of how colour influences the perception of taste of fruit drinks helps to enhance consumer satisfaction. Food companies add colour to food to influence what the food tastes like. People like to see food in colours that they expect.

The concept of visual dominance can be used to explain how colour affects the perception of taste. According to Cooper (1998), visual dominance is the tendency for visual stimulus to dominate awareness of stimuli of similar or greater intensity presented simultaneously in the environment. Vision is the dominant sensory system for man. For instance, olfactory sensory receptors is consisted of less than 10 000 fibres, auditory nerve includes about 25 000 fibres, whereas the optic nerve has almost 1 000000 neural fibres. The importance of vision in humans can be deduced from the fact that the large space in cerebral cortex is devoted to vision. More than one third of all cortexes are included in processing and elaboration of visual information: primary and secondary areas in occipital region, higher visual zones in the temporal and parietal lobes, associative centers in frontal lobe and many diffuse regions in non-dominant cerebral hemisphere. Visual description of external world is more precise, reliable and comprehensive than any other sensory description.

The effect of colours on human perception and human behaviour has been widely demonstrated in literature. Colour can affect perception and evaluation of environments and people. Sugawara 8c Brandt (1999) found that wall colours influenced the levels of cooperative behaviour among preschool children. They found that a white ceiling compared to a red ceiling led children to lower levels of cooperation (i.e.: playing together with a toy).

Oram (1995) investigated the influence of colour on drink identification. Participants were exposed to drinks coloured brown, orange, yellow or red. After tasting each drink, the participants had to identify what flavour the drink was. Results showed that younger participants relied on the colour of the drink to make a decision about the taste more than older participants. A similar experiment by Stillman, (1993) who used uncoloured, red, yellow, orange and green colours to test the participants' ability to identify appropriate flavour of raspberry and orange flavoured drinks. The results showed an inability to identify raspberry and orange flavours correctly in an uncoloured and odd coloured drink samples. AU these experiment illustrate how colours can have an effect on taste perception.

Zampini, Sanabria, Nicolas & Charles (2007) researched on the influence of colour cues on flavour discrimination response. Two experiments were reported that were designed to investigate the influence of visual colour cues on people's flavour discrimination and flavour intensity ratings for a variety of fruit-flavoured solutions. In Experiment 1, the participants were made to associate specific flavours with solutions of various colours simply by looking at them (i.e., without tasting them). In Experiment 2, the participants tasted the solutions and had to discriminate the flavour of solutions that had been coloured either 'appropriately' or 'inappropriately', or else presented as colourless solutions. The participants were explicitly informed that the colours of the solutions provided no useful information regarding the actual flavour identity of the solutions. The participants also rated the flavour intensity of the solutions. The accuracy of participants' flavour discrimination performance was significantly lower when the solutions were coloured inappropriately than when they were coloured appropriately (or else were presented as colourless solutions). These results show that the effect of visual cues on flavour perception can override participants' awareness that the solutions would frequently be coloured inappropriately.

Clydesale (1993), in his work "colour as a factor in food choice," reported that colour affects taste threshold. This study indicated that the threshold concentration at which the basic tastes (salt, sour, bitter, and sweet) are perceived are colour dependent. In the study, the effects of red, green and yellow on the threshold concentration of sweet, sour, salty and bitter taste were measured. The yellow coloured sweet solution was detected at a significantly higher concentration than the colourless control. Also, colour may be more prominent perpetually than flavours because colour generate a stronger visual neural response than flavor, which generates gustatory neural response (Oram, 1995).

Delwiche (2004) studied the impact of perceptual interaction on perceived flavour. This study reported that when eating or drinking, the individual experiences a multitude of sensations of taste, smell, touch, temperature, sight, sound and sometimes pain or irritation. This multifaceted sensory experience affects the perception of flavour although some sensation contributes more than others.

This research also aims to establish the effect of colour on acceptability. Colour affects the judgment of food or drinks; the perception of its freshness and the overall acceptability of the food. Dubose (1980) have shown that one's attitude and one's choice of food is greatly influenced by its colour which leads to a decision of whether to consume that particular drink or not. Zellener 8c Durlach (2003) studied the effect of colour on expected and experienced refreshment, intensity and liking of lemon, mint and vanilla beverages. Subjects rated the expected and actual taste of brown lemon and mint solutions as less refreshing than the tastes of differently coloured solutions of the same flavour. Also, the refreshment ratings of expected and actual taste of the brown vanilla beverages were different from those of the vanilla beverages of other colours. Liking ratings also depended on colour in a manner similar to that of the refreshment rating. Intensity rating was also found to be varied with colour.

Imram, (1999) researched on the role of visual cues in consumer perception and acceptance of food product. According to him, the "first taste is almost always with the eye." This is especially the case where a food product is sold through its appearance, rather than through its packaging.

A study conducted by DuBose (1980) had participants rate the overall acceptability, colour acceptability, flavour acceptability, and flavour intensity for 44 samples of liquid and solid stimuli. The experimenters tested 16 orange flavoured beverages and 16 cherry flavoured beverages. The food stimuli were 12 cake samples that were a combination of four yellow colour levels, and three lemon flavour levels. The results showed that the perceived intensity in beverages increases as colour increases for both the orange and the cherry beverages. This was confirmed in the coloured but flavourless samples where participants rated a more intense colour as a more intense flavour as well, despite the fact that there was no flavour. This seems to also apply in solid samples where the perceived lemon taste increased when the yellow additive was increased (Dubose, 1980). This indicates that when tasting food products where colour and flavour are both present, colour may be the dominant influence on the perception of taste. This experiment shows that the judgment of flavour intensity is directly affected by colour level in both solid and liquid products. Clydesdale (1993) found the same results in fruit flavoured beverages and cake as well. These studies did not measure, however, if the same levels of sweetness were perceived differently between liquids and solids. Alley 8c Alley (1998) argue that liquids may produce more intense sensations than solids because liquids can cover more of the taste receptors faster and more thoroughly than solids can. The commercial world has taken this into consideration and added more sweeteners to solid sweets than to liquid sweets (Alley 8c Alley, 1998).

Identification of flavours based on colour has been tested to determine how well participants can identify flavours in a variety of colour-flavour combinations. Specific colour-flavour combinations have also been studied to determine how sweet the different colours are perceived to be. Various studies have shown that matched colour-flavour combinations are important in identifying flavours and are perceived to be more intense in flavour. Clydesdale (1993) showed that when coloured food had matching colour and flavour combinations they were perceived as having a stronger intensity than mismatched colour flavour combinations (Clydesdale, 1993). Further, Oram (1995) conducted research which showed that when beverages are colour-masked or mismatched adults are worse at identifying the beverage's flavour. Additionally, the participants' identification is biased in the direction of the flavour that matches the colour. In essence, if a participant is given a red-coloured drink that contains some amount of grape flavouring, the participant is more likely to perceive that drink as some a red flavour (i.e. cherry) rather than a purple flavour. This bias is more evident when the flavour is less distinctive (Oram 1995). Philipsen, Clydesdale, Griffin, 8c Stern (1995) also found that the absence of colour could greatly reduce or eliminate one's ability to identify flavour. Furthermore, familiar food items may have a greater impact on the sensory judgment of colour, resulting in greater intensities than non-familiar food items (Alley 8c Alley, 1998). In general, red coloured food is perceived as sweet cherry or strawberry, yellow and green are perceived as sour/ citrus tasting, and blue colouring is characteristic of sweet foods (Alley 8c Alley, 1998).

Colour can also affect the perceived quality of substance by consumers. According to Jelsoe, Land, 8c Lassein (1992), the perception of quality by consumer is based on the experience from everyday life together with the cultural norms and rules which are as a result of upbringing. Anderson (1981) constructed a concept of quality that consists of two main categories of quality which are external qualities such as smell, taste, colour, and internal qualities of the products such as its composition. In describing the components of food attributes, Huyghebaert (1991) listed quality attributes such as safety, nutritive value, and sensory qualities. The sensory quality attribute is the emphasized in his study by exploring sensory qualities such as taste and colour. Quality perception is a perceptual outcome generated from processing product or service features (benefits delivered) that leads the consumer to make inferences about the quality of that product or service.


The following hypotheses were tested in this study:

1. Females would learn to associate colour with the taste of fruit flavoured drinks better than males.

2. Participants who are exposed to inappropriate colour and taste stimuli would have problems identifying the taste of the drink compared to participants who are exposed to appropriate colour- taste stimuli.

3. Participants who are exposed to appropriate colour and taste stimuli would respond about the quality of the fruit flavoured drinks better than participants who are exposed to inappropriate colour -taste stimuli.

4. Participants who are exposed to appropriate colour and taste stimuli would show a significant preference for the drink over participants exposed to inappropriate colour- taste stimuli.

5. There would be a negative relationship between the inappropriate colour of the fruit flavoured drinks and the perception of taste, quality, and liking of the fruit flavoured drinks.

6. There would be a positive relationship between quality perception and liking perception.


A between-subjects experimental design was used. This is a systematic manipulation of the independent variable, which in this study is colour. Different participants were exposed to two different levels of the variable. The different participants were randomly assigned to the control group and the experimental group. There was also a systematic measuring of the dependent variables which is the effect colour had on the perception of taste, quality and liking of the fruit flavoured drinks. This was measured using an instrument (colour -taste perception scale) designed by the researcher. In determining the extent of colour-taste association, a survey design was used.


The experiment was conducted in the Psychology Laboratory of the Covenant University. The lighting was equivalent to the normal day light spectrum.


Fifty (50) participants were selected from first year to third year students of the Department of Psychology using proportional and systematic sampling methods. The proportional sampling method allows the proportions of the different level populations to reflect in the sample while the systematic sampling techniques involve choosing every nth person to be part of the sample. Fifty (50) participants were exposed to a colour vision test designed by the researcher to help control for the participant's inability to perceive visual stimuli adequately. As a result of this colour vision test, forty two participants were qualified to be part of the experiment.

Through the simple random sampling method, thirty (30) people were chosen from these qualified persons to participate in the experiment. A letter was sent to selected participants informing them of the time and venue of the experiment and to seek their informed consent although details about the purpose of the experiment were not entirely communicated to them to avoid reactance. There were no special agreements with the participants and no special payment was made to them. For reasons unknown to the researcher, only twenty four (24) participants turned up for the experiment. They were assigned using simple random sampling to the experimental and control groups of twelve each. Of the twenty four (24) participants used in this study, fourteen (14) of them were female students while the remaining ten (10) were male students


For the purpose of this study, some of the materials used by the researcher were purchased while others were constructed or developed by the researcher. They include:

Disposable cups: Twenty four clear disposable cups were used.

Flavoured drinks: Ginger, orange, and apple flavoured drinks were used. These drinks were purchased colourless which is not the usual orange drink that the participants would have been exposed to.

Food colourings: This is a tasteless food colouring that was used in the manipulation of the fruit drinks to give them colour. Although no particular apple colouring was used, the apple colour was obtained by mix of yellow and red liquid colouring and manipulated till the colour that could be perceived as apple drink colour was obtained. The apple colouring was added to the colourless apple flavoured drink to give it an apple colour. The apple colouring was also added to the orange flavoured drink to give it an apple colour. The orange and apple flavoured drinks were manipulated to have the same hue of apple colour.

Colour vision test: This test was developed and used by the researcher to gather information on the participant's ability to perceive visual stimuli. It included three sections. Section A was used to gather demographic information such as the name, sex and level of the participants. Section B contained five items, which participants responded to, to determine the possibility of a visual defect. It included questions such as "have you ever used glasses"? "Are you able to identify colours"? Section C required the participants to identify colours such as grey, dark blue, purple, and orange. The test was scored by counting the number of positive and correct responses. Since there were nine items in all, participants with a score of 6 were considered as being visually able to participate in the experiment.

Colour- taste perception scale: This is another instrument constructed and used by the researcher to measure the conditioning effect colour had on taste perception, quality perception and liking of the drink, and to determine if colour conditioning has actually taken place. It contained three sections. Section A gathered the demographic information of the participants such as Sex and Academic level. Section B contained items used to determine the extent of colour conditioning. This section contained twelve items in all, nine referring to colour conditioning and the remaining three referring to how colour affected the liking of the drink. The items included statements such as: "I can determine what a drink tastes like from its colour", "I usually associate particular food colours with certain fruit drinks", "Colour aids recognition of fruit drinks", "I prefer orange flavoured drinks in pink colours." The participants responded to these items in a five point likert scale format. Section C measured the effect colour had on taste perception, quality perception and liking of the fruit drink. This section was divided in two and contained six items in all. The first part was responded to before participants were allowed to taste the drink while the second contained two items. The second part was responded to after the participants had tasted the drink while it contained four items The participants were required to identify the colour of the drink and to rate the quality of the fruit drink before they tasted it, while visualizing the drink stimuli. After participants tasted the drink, they responded to the taste of the drink by indicating if it had the appropriate colour. They also responded to how much they perceived the drink as a quality product as a result of its colour and how much they liked the drink.

Pilot Study

A pilot study was conducted on five final year students in the field of psychology. This was to ensure that the items in section B of the instrument were well worded and understood and the drinks and colour materials used in section C of the colour- taste perception scale were perceived by participants as expected. From the pilot study, it was discovered that the items were not ambiguous and all the sections were understandable. This helped the researcher in the preparation of the final instrument used in this study.

Psychometric properties

The psychometric properties of the instruments are based on the validity and reliability of the research instrument.


Content validity was obtained for the instruments by professionals in the department of psychology of Covenant University. These persons ascertained that the instruments measure what they purport to measure.


Test-retest reliability coefficients of 0.62 and 0.68 were obtained for the colour- taste perception scale and colour vision test respectively.


Two student volunteers acted as research assistants for the experiment.

The researcher with the help of the research assistants manipulated the colourless flavoured drinks by adding apple looking food colourings to the drinks.

The experiment was conducted in the psychology laboratory of Covenant University, and a total number of twenty four (24) students (14 females and 10 males) participated in the experiment. The participants were assigned through simple random sampling to the experimental and control groups equally. Participants selected to be part of the experimental group were allowed to settle in the psychology laboratory while participants in the control group were instructed to wait in the Psychology clinic of the department. The research assistants helped pour the drinks into transparent disposable cups in a room were activity was not visible to the participants.

Participants in the experimental group were exposed to the items in sections A and B of the colour- taste perception scale. They were given numbers from one to twelve and were instructed to write their various numbers on the response sheet. After all participants in the experimental group had completed these sections, the response sheets were collected from them. Laboratory assistants placed apple coloured orange drinks in a distance visible to the participants who were instructed not to taste the drink. They were given the section C of the colour- taste perception scale. They were informed to respond to the first two items in section C. The participants in the experimental conditions were then instructed to taste the drinks placed before them and were then instructed to respond to the last four items. Participants were rewarded with biscuits each and were allowed to exit the psychology laboratory. Participants in the control group were also made to settle in the psychology laboratory. The same procedure was used for participants in the control group except that they were exposed to apple flavoured and appropriately coloured drinks.

Statistical Analysis

The data obtained from this study was analyzed using various statistically tools as demanded by the various research hypotheses. Hypotheses 1, 2, 3, and 4, were analyzed using t- test dependent measures. Hypothesis 5 was analyzed using Pearson's Product Moment Correlation.


This segment presents the analysis, interpretation and summary of the data upon which valid conclusions and decisions are based.

Demographic Data

The demographic variables of the sample and participants consist of their sex and academic levels.

From table 1 above, it is noted that female participants used in this study were slightly more than their male counterparts. The female studenst constituted 58.3% of the sample while the male students constituted 41.7%. This is probably because female students are more than male students in the entire population of students in the Department of Psychology of Covenant University.

Hypothesis Testing

This presents the results of the tested hypotheses and the interpretations of the data analyzed. The results are presented in tables and the interpretationx of each result follows.

Hypothesis 1: Female students will learn to associate colour with taste of flavoured drinks better than male students. To test the hypothesis, the t-test independent was used to analyze the data.

Table 3 above indicates that there is no significant difference in the learnt association of colour with taste based on the sex of the participants. This implies that female students do not differ from male students in the level to which they associate colours with taste, therefore sex or gender has nothing to do with being able to associate colours with the taste of a drink. The hypothesis is not accepted.

Hypothesis 2: Participants who are exposed to inappropriate colour and taste stimuli will have problems identifying the taste of the drink compared to participants who are exposed to appropriate colour and taste stimuli. To test this hypothesis the independent t-test was used.

This indicates that there is a significant difference in the ability of participants exposed to appropriate colour and taste stimuli and inappropriate colour and taste stimuli to identify the drink based on colour. This hypothesis is accepted. The result infers that the appropriateness of colour of the drink affects the how the taste of the drink is perceived and makes the taste of the drink easily identified.

Hypothesis 3: Participants who are exposed to appropriate colour and taste stimuli will respond about quality of the fruit flavoured drinks better than participants who are exposed to inappropriate colour and taste stimuli. To test the hypothesis, the independent ttest was used to determine if a difference exits in the perception of quality between those exposed to appropriate and inappropriate taste stimuli.

Based on this result, it is concluded that there is a significant difference in the perception of quality between participants exposed to appropriate colour and taste stimuli and participants exposed to inappropriate colour and taste stimuli. The hypothesis is therefore accepted. Exposure to appropriate colour and taste stimuli affects perception in terms of being able to appreciate the quality of a drink.

Hypotheses 4: Participants who are exposed to appropriate colourtaste stimuli would show a significant preference for the drink over participants exposed to inappropriate colour- taste stimuli. The independent t- test was used to test this hypothesis.

Table 6 above, indicates that there is no significant difference in the perception of preference based on the colour of the drink between participants exposed to appropriate colour and taste stimuli and participants exposed to inappropriate colour and taste stimuli. The hypothesis is therefore rejected. This implies that the colour of a drink does not have a significant effect on how much it is liked

Hypothesis 5: There would be a negative relationship between

a) Inappropriate colour and taste perception

b) Inappropriate colour and quality perception.

c) Inappropriate colour and perception of liking of those exposed to the experimental condition.

The Pearson's Product Moment Correlation was used to test this hypothesis.

a) r = -.21, N= 12, p>0.05 one tailed

b) r =.14, N= 12, p> 0.05 one tailed

c) r = -.25, N = 12, p> 0.05 one tailed

Table 7 indicates that:

a). There is a negative but not significant relationship between colour and taste perception. Although there is a negative correlation, the magnitude of the association between colour and taste is weak. The hypothesis is rejected. The weakness of the relationship between the colour and the taste of the stimuli can be attributed to the size of the sample. A small sample size was used.

b). There is a very weak but positive relationship between colour and perception of quality. The hypothesis is therefore rejected.

c). There is a negative but weak relationship between colour and liking of the fruit flavoured drinks. The hypothesis is therefore rejected

Hypothesis 6: There would be a positive significant relationship between quality perception and liking perception. The Pearson's Product Moment Correlation was used to test this hypothesis.

Table 8 indicates that there is a significant positive relationship between the participant's perception of quality and their perception of liking. This implies that as the perception of quality increases, likeness for the drink also increases.


1. It was discovered from the study that there was no difference in the level at which females and males associate colour with taste. This means that every individual, despite their gender associate colours with taste equally.

2. Participants exposed to inappropriate colour and taste stimuli had problems identifying the flavour of the fruit flavoured drinks while participants exposed to appropriate colour and taste stimuli had no problem at all in identifying the taste of the stimuli. This confirms the researcher's assumptions that people have always learnt to associate particular colours with particular fruits and a mismatch between the colour and the taste of the drink will result in a problem in taste perception. This effect of colour in taste perception has also been persistently observed by other researchers for example, Stillman, (1993); Oram, (1995); Dubose, (1980); Hoegg & Alba, (2007).

3. The perception of the quality of the product has also been discovered to be affected by colour of the fruit drink. Participants exposed to appropriate colour and taste stimuli perceived the drink as being of a high quality compared to participants exposed to inappropriate colour and taste stimuli. Appropriateness of colour seems to be very vital especially to food producers.

4. It was further discovered from the study that the colour of the fruit drink had no significant effect on the perception of liking. Although a difference was observed in the perception of liking between those exposed to the experimental and control condition and it was also observed that colour definitely had an effect on how much participants liked the drink but it was neither a significant effect nor was there a significant difference between the two groups. This may be due to observed excitement displayed by the participants as a result of being involved in an experiment. This could also be explained by way of experimental reactivity which made participants to respond in a way they think they need to respond to assist the researcher. Participants may have also liked the drink because of the novelty of the stimuli.

5. The research however confirmed a negative relationship between inappropriate colour and taste perception, and also a negative relationship between colour and how much participants liked the drink amongst those exposed to the experimental conditions. A negative correlation identifies an inverse relationship between variables. This implies that as the perception of inappropriateness of the colour and taste association increases, perception of taste and liking decreases. The relationship between colour and taste and liking perception is weak.

The correlation between colour and perception of quality was discovered to be positive as opposed to the experimental hypothesis that the relationship between inappropriate colour and quality will be negative. However, the relationship is a weak one tending towards a negative rather than positive, which is in line with the hypothesised direction.

The weak relationship between inappropriate colour and the dependent variables of taste, quality and liking could be due to the sample size used in this study.

6. A positive significant relationship between perception of quality and how much participants liked the drink was also observed.

Limitations of the Study

This study is limited in the following aspects

1. As with any other laboratory experimental study, this study can be said to lack ecological validity. This implies that the findings generated in laboratory conditions may be too tightly controlled that the results may not be generalized to life outside the laboratory.

2. The population of the study was limited to Psychology students in the Covenant University. This may not be generalisable to the entire student population of the University and the entire human race at large. The sample size was also quite small, although representative of the population.

3. During the course of the study, various variables appeared to have served as extraneous variables such as the colour of the drink itself. The colour of the drink was manipulated by the researcher to obtain a colour that represents the colour of the normal apple drink that participants would have encountered in the natural setting. Unfortunately, of all the participants who took part in the experiment about 30% perceived the colour of the drink differently from what the researcher and research assistants who helped mix the drink interpreted the drink to be. They perceived the colour of the drink as a colour representing an orange drink when it was manipulated to represent an apple drink.

Implications of the Study

The result of this study demonstrated that the colour of a fruit flavoured drink can influence taste and quality perception of such a drink. This implies that food designers and food companies can use colour manipulations as a tactic of increasing the quality perception of their products by consumers. The knowledge of how colour influences the perception of taste of fruit drinks helps to enhance consumer satisfaction by meeting consumer's expectations. Food companies add colour to food to influence what the food tastes like. Since this research emphasised that the way a food looks can help determine its taste, it is important that the Covenant University (and other private University) Cafeteria services take note of this discovery so as to be able to provide students with food that appeals to their appetite. Also, food producers that want to increase preference for their own products amongst their consumers should improve on the quality of their product.

Recommendations and Suggestions for further study

More research still has to be carried out on this subject especially in this part of the world.

1. Future research in this area should be conducted using children, adolescents, and adult participants to determine which developmental group rely most on colour and taste association in the identification of flavour.

2. The developmental stage in which colour and taste association begins in people should also be examined.

3. The effect of colour on the perception on intensity should also be considered by future researchers on this subject.

4. To obtain a result that can be more generalized to the real world, future research should be conducted in a real life setting and not in the laboratory. This real life setting could be one in which participants are engaged in the tasks of deciding what to buy in a market setting.

5. Future research should also use a fairly bigger population to be able to generalize findings to a larger range of human population.

6. The colour of the drink should be manipulated in such a way that it is perceived accurately by the participants.


From birth, nature teaches us to make judgments of our environments based on colour. Thus, most people learn and are familiar with specific combinations of colour and taste stimuli. This learned association creates expectations about how a particular food should look and taste. From this study, which explored the effect of these colour and taste conditionings on taste perception, quality perception and liking of the fruit flavoured drink by manipulating the colour of the fruit drinks and measuring its effects on the taste, quality and liking perception, it can be concluded that people will have difficulty in identifying the taste of a fruit flavoured drink when the colour is not consistent with the expected taste. Also, people will perceive a product to be of higher quality if the colour and the taste of the drink are consistent with their expectations concerning such combinations. Food designers and producers should take advantage of this understanding about how humans perceive products when making decisions about the colour of products to ensure consumer satisfaction and as a marketing ploy to increase the profitability of their company.


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Author affiliation:


1 Department of Behavioural Sciences

University of llorín

Ilorin, Kwara State

2 Department of Psychology

College of Development Studies

Covenant University

Ota, Ogun State

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