Visual illusions that could trick our tastebuds and persuade us to eat healthier

A small team in London is using experimental psychology to cook up the next great meal. Oxford professor Charles Spence and chef Jozef Youssef are exploring the role all our senses play when we taste food, given the importance of our brains in how we perceive flavor.

Their experiments aim to trick our brains into imagining we’re eating a decadent meal, when in fact we’re eating something with just the fraction of the calories. The duo plays with colors and shapes to nudge people into believing a dish is sweeter than it actually is, and they deploy visual illusions to prompt diners to choose a more sustainable protein like rabbit over duck.

These sensory-enhanced dinners are a testing ground for ideas that could one day become commonplace and help the world eat more healthily and sustainably.