Tongue Map Shmung Map: Tongue Maps Are a Myth

You’ve probably seen a very scientific looking diagram known as a tongue map. But let me rip the band-aid off right now, that map is a bunch of nonsense.

Image via Live Science

Image via Live Science

When I was in elementary school, we did an experiment to test the tongue map. None of us (including my teacher) had results like the tongue map suggested. Sour tasted sour everywhere. Sweet was sweet all over the tongue. I remembered my befuddled teacher saying that clearly our results were not like what the map in the book suggested. She told us that happened in science all the time and in real life, good scientists would keep on testing this experiment in their laboratories to discover the truth. She never once said we were wrong, and the map was right. I thought that was pretty cool.

I no longer trusted that tongue map though. Because like a good scientist, I kept testing. The results were always the same, I tasted everything all over my tongue. That map was a bunch of malarkey. You don’t have to take my word for it. Test it yourself! Pro tip: Do not show kids the test ahead of time. It will skew and confound your results.

Want to learn more about the real Science of Flavor? Check out National Geographic’s blog. You’ll find background information, an interesting, short video, and suggestions for classroom activities.

Flavor of Science


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