Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Froot Flavored

How Can Froot Loops Be Real If the Flavors Aren’t Real?

It’s true, Froot Loops are all the same flavor.

Back in the early days of the Internet, when people were still learning not to use made-up punctuation on message boards, there was a place where you could go to get information about all those random thoughts you have while lying in bed at night. No, it wasn’t called Google, but a predecessor of infinite internet wisdom – Straight Dope.

Although it was re-discovered in a 2014 Today I Learned thread on Reddit, the furthest back we can go is to the Straight Dope message boards of 1999. Surely, however, people have been getting into fistfights over this for many years prior.

The eye-opening part is that most cereals that come in different colors are probably the same in flavor (Ahem, Fruity Pebbles, yes).

Kellogg’s isn’t trying to be manipulative outright; they don’t even call it fruit (it’s Froot). They’re just playing a game that was started around the time of tri-color vision in primates, and one that we all take part in, and one that we actually choose to play. (If not up until now, then after knowing this, you will be forever complicit in the game. The yellow ones will still get left behind.)

Perception is multimodal, that is to say, we do not “see” or “hear” in isolation. We don’t sense anything as “raw information”; instead we perceive things, and this means that the original sensory stimulus has to be processed in its corresponding cortical areas of the brain. For Smell, the raw stimulus gets laced up into your virtual memory body, via the limbic system, before the cortical areas get a chance at it. Regardless, most sensory experience is a mixture of all the senses.

This makes sense, because it makes things more accurate. The brain likes to check with all available information, and that means all sensory information, before verifying what something is. Vision is usually the best verifier for us, so much that it cognitively overrides other senses like smell and taste. There is a reason why almost everything we eat (in America at least) is artificially-colored. *

Sometimes cognitive override yields false results, and this is especially the case with olfaction. There are tons of studies that support this. But if you ate Froot Loops as a kid, you don’t need science, because chances are you thought the yellow was lemon, the orange orange, and so on.

The flavor of Froot Loops is indeed a mixture of the “flavors” that can be derived from various fruits, just that they’re all mixed together. And what does Kellogg’s call this omni-flavored fruit? “Froot”, of course. Froot Loops are not Fruit flavored, but Froot flavored. **

*In the UK, Froot Loops only comes in three colors (purple, orange, green) because they can’t legally use artificial coloring.

**I only repeat this because I saw it in the reddit thread: The main flavoring is bergamot, which is also the flavor in Earl Gray tea.

And one more, because I thought this was just the best comment of all: You don’t eat froot loops one at a time, so how should you even know?

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