Some sounds send a tingle down the spine and instantly make us salivate – think of the satisfying sizzle of bacon in a hot pan or the refreshing crack and fizz when a drink can is opened. But other food-related sounds are so grating that they can instantly send us into a rage or, very occasionally, drive families apart.
To explore which food- and drink-related sounds are the most satisfying or annoying, we asked Americans and Brits to rate their emotional reactions to a range of recordings, including loud chewing, lettuce tearing, rustling wrappers, and grinding coffee beans.
After researching online conversations on the topics of satisfying and annoying sounds, we shortlisted 16 of the most frequently mentioned to play to our test subjects. Each person listened to the sounds in the table below and rated how satisfying or annoying they found them.
The sound of pouring a fizzy drink took the top spot in the satisfaction table, while loud, squelchy chewing took the crown for most annoying
The fizzing sound of a drink filling a glass is not only incredibly satisfying, but it’s also more satisfying than the sound of bacon sizzling in a pan. Our top-scoring satisfying sound received an average score of 3.43 out of a maximum possible score of 5, narrowly edging out the runner-up at 3.31.
The third most satisfying sound was the crack and fizz of opening a beverage can (3.03), fourth was the enticing pop of a cork leaving a bottle (2.99), and the spray from a can of whipped cream came in fifth place (2.43). Each of these sounds is distinctive while also a signal of something enjoyable that’s about to happen.
Despite the sound of pouring a fizzy drink being the most satisfying sound overall, it’s not for everyone, as 7% of people found this sound to be not at all satisfying. This contrasts to the 19% who found it to be extremely satisfying.
Of the top five most satisfying sounds, people in the UK felt slightly less satisfaction than their US counterparts for all but the sound of a cork popping from the bottle. Hover over any satisfaction score in the table above, and you’ll see how the scores compare between the UK and US. This trend continues across most of the other sounds, as UK satisfaction scores slightly lagged behind the US for 14 of the 16 sounds.
Our results showed a similar pattern when comparing satisfaction scores for men and women. For all but one sound (crunchy lettuce tear), men weighed in with higher satisfaction scores than women. The largest differences were for the pop of a cork (men: 3.11; women: 2.87), sizzling bacon (men: 3.40; women: 3.21), and opening a beverage can (men: 3.10; women: 2.95).
Which sounds are the most annoying? Rather than use low scores for satisfaction, we specifically asked people to rate how annoying they found a particular sound. You can reorder the table above by average annoyance scores by clicking “Annoyance Score.”
Two different but related sounds took the two top spots with huge scores on the annoyance scale. The sound of someone chewing loudly ranked as the most annoying sound at 4.44 out of 5. This beats the sound of lips smacking while eating (4.20), which ranked second highest. Click the play button next to these sounds to hear them, if you dare.
Among the top five most annoying sounds were enthusiastically licking fingers (3.99), the screeching scratch of cutlery on a plate (3.99), and slurping (3.90).
People mostly agreed on how annoying sounds were. Two-thirds of people found the squelchy sound of loud chewing extremely annoying, while only 1 in 50 people listened to our loud chewing sound effect and thought it was not at all annoying. Opinions were more varied when considering how satisfying sounds were, with the top-scoring sound only rated as extremely satisfying by 1 in 5 people.
While most people were in agreement when judging whether a sound was satisfying or annoying, certain sounds divided opinion.
The sound of popping chewing gum was rated at least “moderately annoying” by 1 in 4 people, while almost 4 in 10 people found it to be at least moderately satisfying.
The rustling of food wrappers was at least somewhat annoying to nearly 8 in 10 people, but 4 in 10 also reported getting at least some satisfaction from the sound. The fact that some people found certain sounds both slightly annoying and slightly satisfying suggests that the way we react to these sounds can be complex.
If you’re the one rustling food wrappers, you might be seconds away from enjoying your favourite snack in the cinema – the sound is more satisfying than annoying. For the person sitting in front of you, though, the reaction could be the exact opposite.
We explored this idea further by comparing the average score of sizzling bacon for meat eaters versus vegetarians and vegans. The average satisfaction score for sizzling bacon was 30% higher among meat eaters than nonmeat eaters (3.40 vs. 2.59).
Most of the time, our reactions to food- and drink-related sounds are fairly mild and fleeting. But sometimes, the social repercussions are significantly more severe.
Almost half of adults had left the room because of the loud noises others made while eating
While many people are at least slightly annoyed by certain sounds, for others, they elicit more extreme emotions.
Our results showed that people were most commonly annoyed when they noticed the sounds people made while eating (47%), but 28% said they most commonly felt disgusted, and just over 5% of respondents said it made them angry.
While only 1 in 20 claimed that anger was their most common reaction to the sound of loud eating, we found that 80% of people had experienced feeling angry due to noisy eaters.
For some people, the sound is too much to bear, as almost half (47%) of our respondents claimed they needed to leave the room as a result of the sounds others made while eating.
For those who regularly have such extreme reactions to these eating sounds, it may be a symptom of misophonia. Misophonia is a recognised chronic condition in which sounds can trigger intense emotional reactions due to more intense brain activity.
Some food-related sounds – particularly people eating – are often cited as misophonic triggers alongside sounds like loud breathing, sniffing, and pen clicking.
Given that so many people have experienced intense reactions to sounds, to what extent do we moderate ourselves when eating?
We found that only 12% of people never felt self-conscious about the sounds they made while eating, suggesting that almost 9 in 10 people at least sometimes feel self-conscious about their snacking sounds.
One in 4 people said they always make a direct effort to make as little sound as possible when eating, while only 1 in 20 (4.5%) reported never doing so.
On the other end of the reactionary spectrum, there’s a growing trend for ASMR eating videos and live streams. ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response,” which refers to a tingling sensation sometimes felt when hearing particular sounds. It’s reported that over 80% of people have a reaction to at least some sounds. The eating subsection of ASMR content on the web provides a means for viewers to experience their own reactions to videos of people eating copious amounts of food with binaural microphones close by to pick up every detail of the sound.
Despite the emergence of groups eager to listen to ASMR eating, our results suggest that in day-to-day life, the sounds people make while eating are much more likely to produce a negative response from those around them.
To put this theory to the test, we asked people about their opinions on loud eating in romantic relationships and situations.
Over half of British women would turn down a second meetup if their date was a loud eater
To what extent might something you may not even be aware of affect your chances of a second date? We presented this scenario to our survey takers:
“Imagine you’re on a first date, and it’s going well. Your food arrives, and you both begin to eat. You hear the sound of your date chewing loudly, their lips smacking with every bite. How influential would this be when deciding if you’d want to see that person again?”
Despite the rest of the date going well, almost 1 in 3 (31.5%) people felt that if their date started eating loudly, it would be a deal breaker for a second date.
Women were twice as likely as men to see loud eating as a deal breaker, with over 4 in 10 axing their dates’ prospects of a second rendezvous, compared to roughly 2 in 10 men.
Dating in the UK may be more cutthroat than in the US, as eating loudly on a British date was more than 1.5 times as likely to result in the termination of second-date prospects than on an American date (38% compared to 25%). The contrast when we compared UK women to US men was also stark – British women would forgo a second date over half the time (51.5%), compared to less than 1 in 5 American men (18%).
People in stable relationships aren’t entirely safe either. One in 4 of those in a relationship wished their partner made less noise while eating, with women over 1.5 times more likely to desire this (29.6%) than men (18.2%). Two-thirds of people in relationships claimed to never argue with their partner because of loud eating, but this means that one-third of people have argued over these annoying sounds (34.6%).
Sounds can trigger a variety of feelings. Our results show that among food- and drink-related sounds, the pouring of a fizzy drink reigns supreme for satisfaction, followed by the sound of bacon sizzling. Conversely, the sounds made by people enthusiastically enjoying food and drink can push people to the edge of their patience, as chomping loudly and lip smacking topped the annoyance chart.
Fortunately, most of us make an effort to control the sounds we make when we eat, but for those who don’t, it could be the difference between popping a champagne cork on a second date and slurping a drink at home alone.
We surveyed a total of 751 adults from the US (376) and the UK (375) in October of 2019 with a mean age of 39.7 (sd = 14.1).
For each sound, we asked respondents to listen to the provided example (the same sounds you can listen to in the rankings table on this page) and then rate how satisfying and annoying they found the sound on the following scales:
The responses were converted to a score using the numbers in parentheses, and the average was taken.
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