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Are there really different areas of 'taste' on your tongue?

You will need:

  • 4 cups of water
  • Wooden tongue depressors, i.e. icecream sticks
  • Lemon juice; be aware of potential citrus allergies!
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • A taste test subject!



  1. Dissolve sugar crystals into one cup, salt into another cup and pour lemon juice into a third cup.
  2. Leave the fourth cup as a 'control', i.e. something you can compare against.
  3. Mix a wooden ice-cream stick through one solution and place it on the tip of your tongue.
  4. Record the taste i.e salty, bitter, sweet, no taste. Wash your mouth out with pure water.
  5. Now repeat steps 3 and 4 for the back, sides and middle of your tongue.
  6. Were there areas of the tongue that didn't strongly sense the taste?
  7. Now repeat the steps 3, 4 and 5 for the other solutions.
  8. What were your results? Now read below to find out true answer...
  9. Maybe try blind folding a friend, can they tell which solution is which?
Are there really specific areas of taste on the tongue?
Be Amazing Book Front Cover; Ben Newsome, teacher & founder of Fizzics Education. Be Amazing -how to teach science the way primary kids love
Be Amazing!
How to teach science, the way primary kids love

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Why Does This Happen?

'Tongue taste maps' have been a classic experiment for primary school aged children for many years. Many text books will incorrectly reveal that there are indeed areas of taste on your tongue, i.e. some areas taste salt better than sugar etc. The problem is that this has been based on faulty science!

There are no specific areas on your tongue exclusively for salt, sugar or sour tastes.

Your sense of taste comes from small structures called taste buds, collectively called 'papillae'. These papillae occur on top of the tongue, epiglottis and soft palate within your mouth. There are five taste sensations: sweet, sour, bitter, savory and salty. Your food's taste comes from a mixture of signals being sent to the brain from the papillae within your mouth.

The popular belief that there are specific taste areas over the tongue comes from a poorly translated german psychological study conducted in 1901! Sensitivity to all tastes is apparent throughout the tongue, with stronger sensations being produced in different areas due to differing numbers of papillae on the tongue.

Check this Wikipedia external link for further information.
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