Whether you’re in the cinema, at work or somewhere else you’re not meant to be eating, you cannot escape from the tyranny of the rustling crisp packet. It will always give you away. You will never be free. It is really annoying.
And it turns out that there’s an actual, real reason why crisp packets are so irritatingly loud – and it’s all to do with *X-Files music* basic psychology.
According to Charles Spence, professor of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, people actually find their crisps tastier when they can hear the packet rustling.
In a study, participants were asked to eat crisps with and without noise-cancelling headphones on, and when they couldn’t hear the rustle, they said the crisps tasted “stale and spongy” compared to those they ate from a rustling packet.
“The sound of the food matters,” he said. “The sound of the packaging matters and atmospheric sounds matter. The sounds of the packaging in which a food is experienced – think the rattle of the crisps packet, or the pop of the champagne cork – can also influence our enjoyment of what comes next too.”
It’s linked to our expectations, apparently. When we think of the “rattle of the crisps packet or the pop of the champagne cork” we know what delicious treats are awaiting us – so when those noises don’t come, we feel like something’s a bit off about the situation. That, in turn, affects our experience of taste.
And Spence believes that crisp manufacturers are savvy to this phenomenon – explaining why packets are so loud.
“There’s no reason in terms of product preservation for the noisy packets,” he explains. “It must just be some marketing person who thought, ‘It’s a noisy food, it’s got to have the right expectations for the packaging’.”
So there we have it – next time you’re caught eating when you shouldn’t be, remember it’s not your fault. It’s science. Probably.