Before you invite people over for your next cheese or dinner party, you might want to take some extra time with selecting your utensils. A new study from Oxford shows the color, weight, and shape of cutlery can alter one's taste perception and enjoyment of food.

"How we experience food is a multisensory experience involving taste, feel of the food in our mouths, aroma, and the feasting of our eyes," explained authors Vanessa Harrar and Charles Spence. Both are experimental psychologists at Oxford University.

"Even before we put food into our mouths our brains have made a judgment about it, which affects our overall experience," continued the authors, whose study can be found in the open-access journal Flavour.

Prior studies have shown the size of plates and bowls can alter how much food a person consumes, with bigger dishes leading to bigger appetites, while the color of one's mug can change an individual's taste and appreciation for the hot cocoa that he/she is drinking.

Harrar and Spence have now expanded this theme into the realm of forks, spoons, and knives with three experiments. Each experiment had between 30 to 45 participants, with the majority being Oxford undergraduate students. After using a particular utensil, the subjects were asked to rank the taste and quality of the food being consumed on 9-point scales.

1. Weight

The first found that the weight of a spoon can impact the people's expectations for yogurt. All of the spoons were same size, shape, and color, but differed by the weight of the handle.

When yogurt was sampled from a lighter spoon, it was perceived as more enjoyable and more exprensive. However, yogurt from lighter spoons was more likely to be rated as bland and less sweet.

"It is thus difficult to determine what kind of cutlery would produce the 'best' results; while the yoghurt tasted from the light teaspoon was rated as the most dense, most expensive, and most liked, this spoon would not seem to be the best for eating desserts since the yoghurt tasted from it was rated as the least sweet," the authors concluded.

2. Color

Color contrast played a significant role in taste appreciation for yogurt. Blue spoons made pink yogurt seem saltier relative to white yogurt. This paralleled findings from earlier work that found blue bowls make unseasoned popcorn seem salty.

"Blue packaging is often associated with salty snack products (at least in the UK where the present study was conducted)," wrote the authors. "It might be that consumers expect saltiness when they see white food on a blue background (white yoghurt on blue cutlery)."

Overall, they tested five colors of spoons (red, blue, green, black, white) and two colors of yogurt (white and pink).

The only other significant relationship was observed with black versus white spoons. Black spoons made yogurt appear less sweet, relative to white spoons.

3. Shape

Finally, if you're throwing a cheese party, you might want to stock up on plastic knives. While cheese cubes on top of toothpicks might be the norm in the U.S., it's customary for cheese shops in the UK to serve their products on knives, and for good reason.

The authors found that cheeses were perceived as sharper and saltier if served from knives versus forks, toothpicks, and spoons.

Your Favorite Cereal Spoon

What's cool about this brand of research is that it suggests there is a reason for why people have a "favorite coffee mug" or why a baby boy might always pick a blue spoon over a red one.

"So, when serving a dish, one should keep in mind that the color of the food appears different depending on the background on which it is presented (plate or cutlery) and, therefore, tastes different," remarked Harrar and Spence. More research is needed to assess other color combinations. In addition, they only looked at snacking, and preferences may be different if you're having a full meal.

"This [research] may also be used to help control eating patterns such as portion size or how much salt is added to food. Alternatively, people may be able to make better food choices if their ingrained color associations are disrupted by less constant advertising and packaging."

Source: Harrar V, Spence C. The taste of cutlery: how the taste of food is affected by the weight, size, shape, and colour of the cutlery used to eat it. Flavour. 2013.