Fall leaves

Fall is in the air at Mount Union. It’s getting colder, pumpkin spice and apple cider are back, and the leaves are turning. 

 As the name of the season suggests, those leaves are falling off the trees and lying all over the ground.  

Walking to classes now has never been more enjoyable. Sometimes when you walk through the fallen leaves you step on a particularly dry one and you get the oh-so-satisfying crunch. No one I know can resist searching for that perfect leaf every step they take. But why are we so drawn to that sound? While not much research is available that explicitly explains people’s fondness of crunchy leaves there is plenty research on the sound of a crunch. This sound is primarily emphasized by the food market. A big selling point for many foods is how crunchy or crispy they are. Think crispy chicken sandwich, crisp lettuce, crispy French fries.  

Almost anytime there is an ad for Lay’s potato chips or Kit Kats, the primary focus is the crunch of the chips or the wafers in the candy bar make. This noise strangely appeals to everyone and it must work since the ads keep on coming. Charles Spence, a professor at Oxford, conducted an experiment in 2003 that focused on the appeal of crunchy noises. For the experiment, Spence had test subjects sit in a soundproof room with headphones on that play back the sound of their chewing. He then had each subject eat two cans of Pringles and give feedback on which can they thought was fresher. What the subjects didn’t know was that Spence would tinker with the volume at which the chewing noises played back in the headphones.  

Although the Pringles cans were of the same quality, people said that they believed that the cans were fresher when the chewing noise was louder in the headphones and that when the volume was turned down the cans were perceived as less fresh. “Noise doesn’t give a benefit in terms of nutrition. But we don’t like soggy [chips] even if they taste the same,” Spence states. For some odd reason, people compare crunchiness with freshness. It can’t be perfectly explained; they just like it. Although it should be common knowledge that a crunchy leaf means it is dead, it still fills us with glee to hear that noise. So next time you’re chowing down on a nice snack or walking across campus this fall, keep your ears peeled for a good crunch. 

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