Yet Another Thing You Learned in School That is Wrong | Summary and Q&A

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July 4, 2022
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Today I Found Out
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Yet Another Thing You Learned in School That is Wrong

TL;DR

The classic tongue map showing different taste zones is a complete myth, as taste receptors are found all over the tongue and there are more than just four basic tastes.

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Key Insights

  • 👅 The traditional tongue map, dividing the tongue into taste zones, is a myth and has been debunked for many years.
  • 👅 Taste receptors are distributed all over the tongue, including the papillae, soft palate, back of the throat, and other areas.
  • 👅 There are more than four basic tastes, with umami being recognized as the fifth basic taste.
  • 😋 The misinterpretation of David P. Hennig's experiment by Edwin G. Boring led to the creation of the tongue map.
  • 👅 Animals perceive taste differently based on their evolutionary diet. Obligate carnivores like cats do not taste sweetness.
  • 😋 The tongue map persisted due to the appeal of order and organization, particularly in educational settings.
  • 👅 Recent research has revealed minor variations in taste sensitivity across the tongue, but they are insignificant in everyday life.

Transcript

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Questions & Answers

Q: How was the traditional tongue map created?

The tongue map was created based on the misinterpretation of David P. Hennig's 1901 experiment on taste sensitivity by Edwin G. Boring. Hennig's graph showing variation in sensitivity across the tongue was misinterpreted as distinct taste zones.

Q: Are taste receptors only found on the papillae?

No, taste receptors are found all over the tongue, including the papillae, soft palate, back of the throat, and even the epiglottis. They are also found throughout the digestive tract, although these receptors are not capable of producing a conscious sensation of taste.

Q: Are there more than four basic tastes?

Yes, there are more than four basic tastes. Umami, the fifth basic taste, was discovered by Kikunai Ikeda in 1907 and is perceived as a savory flavor. There is ongoing research on the existence of a potential sixth basic taste related to pure fats.

Q: Why did the tongue map persist despite being incorrect?

The tongue map persisted due to human preference for order and organization. The simplicity of the map appealed to teaching science to children and became a popular demonstration in biology classes, even though it often failed to produce expected results.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The traditional tongue map, dividing the tongue into zones for different tastes, is incorrect and has been debunked for decades.

  • German scientist David P. Hennig's 1901 experiment on taste sensitivity was misinterpreted by American psychologist Edwin G. Boring, leading to the creation of the tongue map.

  • Taste receptors are found all over the tongue, and there are more than four basic tastes, including umami, which was discovered by Kikunai Ikeda in 1907.

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