What This Study Reveals About The Last Bite Of A Meal Might Surprise You

You might remember the first time you tried sushi, lobster, or your favorite ice cream, but did you know that your last bite of any given meal might actually be more memorable than the first bite? It would be natural to assume that your first taste of a particular food – when you are hungry and the dish is hot – would be the most memorable, but a recent study suggests the opposite.

According to the Association for Psychological Science, in 2014, the journal Psychological Sciences published an article examining food memory. In a series of studies, the authors found that what people remember most about a meal is the last bite, and this was a deciding factor in whether they choose a given food again. What's even more interesting is that not only did the flavor of the last bite influence whether a person wants to eat a food item for a second or third time but so did portion sizes, the researchers found. 

For one of the studies, 134 subjects were provided with samples of three different kinds of crackers. They were each then given the opportunity to eat more of the cracker varieties they sampled. When they were finished, the subjects rated which option they liked the best. Surprisingly, they most often chose a cracker they had the smallest sample of — about three crackers, versus a 15-cracker serving. The researchers hypothesized that repeated bites get in the way of remembering the appealing flavor of those first bites.

Some people say the first bite is still best

The reason smaller portions tend to be remembered as more enjoyable? The researchers say this is because the pleasure we get from a specific food shrinks with each additional bite we take of it. Moreover, people want more of it sooner when they've eaten less of it, according to the Association for Psychological Science.

A few years ago, the social media forum Quora discussed the question of whether the first or last bite is better. On the "first bite" side, one member of the forum commented that it's the "rush of happiness mid-chew and all the 'happy cells' in your brain cheer and leap for joy..." In the "last bite" camp, another commenter said, "Definitely the last bite, very satisfying."

Speaking with Vice, author and neuroscientist Rachel Herz suggested the first bite of food is the most enjoyable. The reason is a concept called "sensory specific satiety." Herz explained, "It's like, 'Wow I'm feeling everything, I'm tasting everything, I'm getting the full flavor, the aroma.'" Subsequent bites deliver less "bang for our buck." Having a variety of foods gives us the incentive to eat more, which, according to Herz, is why people end up feeling so stuffed on Thanksgiving. On the other end of the spectrum, sensory scientist Michael O'Mahony explained to the University of California that you can get the most pleasure out of a meal by eating it slowly and focusing on the flavors.