Virtual Science

Science Myths

Does your tongue have different taste bud regions?

No! This was officially debunked back in 1974, but you can even prove it to yourself: Place salt on the tip of your tongue. Do you taste it?

taste buds

The idea of a tongue map can be traced back to a 1901 study from German scientist D.P. Hänig, who published the work as his PhD thesis. By testing the four known basic tastes with the opinions of his volunteers, Hänig drew the taste map that has been a common feature of elementary school curriculums ever since. However, in 1974, a PhD psychologist named Virginia Collings repeated Hänig's work and found that—while different regions on different people have varying sensitivity—the differences are negligible. We now know that every taste bud has the ability to sense all five major tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami.

Why then, you ask, are these maps still being printed in textbooks and used as an excuse to buy specific wine glasses? Good question! We'd hazard to guess that it's a failure of science communication.

As a side-note, you also have taste buds on the top of your mouth! Try that salt test again, placing it right where the roof of your mouth begins to soften. Cool, right?

Debunking your burning questions:

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