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I am working on a science project about how color affects taste and I was wondering if you could help me with advice. I would like to interview a scientist via email. I would be asking questions like: Are there any flaws in how I set up my experiment? What do you think is the most efficient way to test this hypothesis? I would also like to do some questions about the topic itself.
Question Date: 2012-11-05
Answer 1:

You have an interesting idea. Now, as a scientist, you need a hypothesis to test. Your hypothesis is a guess about how people respond to the color of the ice cream. For example: “People will prefer _____ ice cream compared to ____ ice cream.” (Fill in the blanks with your idea.)

Once you have that, we can work on your plan for testing your hypothesis. Without a hypothesis, you won’t really know what questions to ask or how to organize things. A common mistake is not having a clear idea about what you’re testing.

Meanwhile think about things like the order. Can you see a problem with everyone getting red first and white last, for example? A lot of people make mistakes like this, which would mean their test was unfair.

Your question 6 is a good one. I don’t know how many colors you are testing, but people will probably get confused if they can’t write down something right away. At the end, you can ask them their favorite.

If you are just interested in kids’ opinions, you can include only kids. If you want to know what everyone prefers, you have to ask a wide variety of people.

It’s a good idea to think about how you will make sense of your results before you start your experiment. What will your graph look like? Obviously, you do not know whether people will like blue better than red, but think about what graph would tell the story. Try making a sketch of a graph that you would see if your hypothesis were correct. Not thinking about this ahead of time is a common mistake

Have you tried coloring the ice cream yet? It might be hard to get the color blended in without melting the ice cream. Ice cream that has melted and refrozen is different from ice cream that didn’t melt. If you know someone with a shaved ice machine, you might have better luck coloring one color of flavored syrup. Another option is to color milk or yogurt

Here is a really good summary of other experiments that tested whether color influenced how people reacted to flavor:


To answer question 3: I am a professor of biology. I studied biology in college and graduate school. All of that education took 12 years. I worked in a lab at Montana State University for 2 years. I worked at UCSB and the National Ecology Center in Santa Barbara for 2 years, then came to Milwaukee in 1998 to teach biology at a college.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Answer 2:

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