You can taste the difference charity makes
Yes, we’re being serious.
No, this isn’t a cheesy metaphor.
When we founded The Little Grape That Could, our goal was to sell high-quality wines to help raise money for charities, and also to offer a creative way to honor people’s loved ones. The wines turned out great – better than we expected (one even garnered a rating of 88+ points from a number of wine critics!) But because of an interesting neural phenomenon, we wound up with even more goodness than we bargained for.
We were discussing our program with a friend one day, and it reminded him of some psychological studies he had heard about. The studies showed that when a person gives to charity, it can actually increase the presence of brain chemicals that enhance that person’s ability to taste certain flavors.
We looked at our friend skeptically.
“It’s true!” he said, “The act of giving actually changes the brain. I’ll send you the links, and you can check it out for yourself.”
He did, and we checked them out. It turns out, he knew what he was talking about. Apparently, the neural phenomenon takes place in two steps.
First, the act of giving money to charity has been shown through functional magnetic resonance imaging to stimulate the areas of the brain responsible for pleasure and reward. In one study, participants were asked to split $100 between themselves and a food bank. Donation of the money to the food bank led to activation of the pleasure and reward centers of the brain. And, according to some researchers, the act of giving can cause the release of serotonin and other neurotransmitters that stimulate these parts of the brain.
This brings us to the second step.
Our tongue has about 10,000 taste buds and the ability to recognize five tastes (and counting): bitter, salty, sweet, sour, and savory. This ability is not the same in all situations, however. Researchers from Bristol University performed a study in which certain participants were given a drug that boosted serotonin. Then, the participants were given things to taste. Those who had been given the serotonin booster actually tested to be more sensitive to sweet (and bitter) tastes!
This indicates that when your serotonin levels increase, as they can when you give to charity, you can experience sweetness much more vividly.”The research we’ve conducted indicates that when people are less worried or anxious they are more sensitive to taste.” explains Lucy Donaldson, senior lecturer in physiology and pharmacology at the University of Bristol. “If giving to charity relieves your anxieties, it will make you more sensitive to sweet and bitter tastes.”
Thus, when you buy a bottle of wine from The Little Grape That Could, select a charity to receive the profits from the sale, and toast to the individual on the bottle, you might find that the wine tastes even better than it normally would. The way we see it, you can actually taste the difference charity makes!
(If you’re skeptical, just ask the guys in the white lab coats.)