The airline meal is much maligned, for fair reasons most of the time, but few probably know (or realise) that it is more heavily salted than it would be if we were to eat it on the ground. The reason, Russell Jones explains in Sense: Unlock Your Senses And Improve Your Life (HarperCollins India, ₹499), is that when background noise exceeds a certain level, “our ability to pick up the taste of saltiness and umami drastically drops off”.
Jones’ book is filled with such intriguing insights. As the founder of Sensory Experiences, a multisensory design agency, he has spent years advising businesses on the right use of light, colour, noise and smell to make their products appealing. Believe it or not, much as we like to think of ourselves as rational beings, most of the decisions we make are influenced by our emotions. “We are not thinking machines that feel,” Jones quotes from Antonio Damasio’s book Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason And The Human Brain, “we are feeling machines that think.”
Sense draws on science, physical and behavioural, to explain the workings of synaesthesia: when senses not ordinarily connected with one another come together to create vivid reactions. A person who has synaesthesia may be seeing sounds or hearing colours—as the poet John Keats was believed to do. Even lesser mortals are endowed with such gifts, though we seldom realise it. Jones takes us through the cycle of a typically busy day—waking up, exercising, getting to our office desks, going back home, cooking meals, throwing a dinner party, having sex, sleep—to show the interconnection of our senses in all these activities.
Crucially, as a retail industry veteran, he explains the life choices we should make (in lights, clothes for different occasions, noises around us, and so on) to send the right signals to our brains and improve overall health. Did you know, for instance, that drinking or eating out of red vessels with rounded surfaces reduces sugar cravings—because red and round make stuff taste sweeter?
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