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Unfair treatment and stress at work affect taste buds

By Dental Tribune International
May 14, 2013

VANCOUVER, Canada: It is widely agreed that stress can influence human health in many ways. Now, a new study from Canada has provided evidence that stress and injustice at work have a physiological effect on people. The researchers found that recalling or observing unfair events may lead to a stronger sense of taste.

In the study, researchers from the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business conducted a number of experiments to determine the effect of workplace-related stress. First, participants had to recall fair and unfair events at work, followed by a test, in which they had to rate the taste of a food. The researchers observed that those who recounted an episode of injustice rated the taste as much as 10 percent stronger compared with those who recounted an act of fairness.

In addition, they found that even observed injustice affects a person's taste buds. In a second experiment, participants watched a number of scenes from the U.S. comedy television series "The Office" involving both unjust and neutral workplace situations. Again, those who viewed unjust treatment reported food tasting as much as 10 percent stronger.

The findings suggested that treatment at work that violates an individual's sense of dignity and respect triggers disgust emotions over and above anger, which leads to stronger taste and smell reactions, the researchers said.

The study, titled "Does Injustice Affect Your Sense of Taste and Smell? The Mediating Role of Moral Disgust," was published online on March 26 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology ahead of print.

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