Most people know the best way to check if chips are still good is just to take a bite. If there’s a nice crunch to it, you’re set, but if the break feels a little dull, a little muted, the can has likely seen better days.
Nevertheless, scientists from Oxford University decided to investigate whether our perception of the staleness of potato chips (sorry, “crisps”) can be affected by altering the sounds heard while biting. In other words, whether product designers can get away with selling older chips so long as they improve the can’s acoustics. What, they’re businessmen, not philanthropists.
The study was called the “The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness of Potato Chips,” and each volunteer was asked to sit in a soundproofed booth, wearing headphones, facing a microphone and operating a pair of foot pedals. While the volunteers ate, the headphones fed back the sounds of their chewing at varying intensities, after which they used the foot pedals to note each chip’s crispness.
The results were predictable: the chips that sounded louder were perceived as being crisper and fresher, while the shy, quiet ones were left out in the dirt.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a can of Pringles from last January sitting around somewhere, and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones with my name on them.
Check out the whole experiment and methodology for yourself at Neatorama.