taste areas are a lie

Taste Areas on the Tongue is a Lie

By Anupum Pant


At some point in your school education, each one of your science books has shown you the ‘tongue map’ [Image]. There are solid demarcated boundaries shown in that diagram. The boundaries shown enclose areas on your tongue which exclusively specialize in tasting specific kinds of tastes. According to it:

  • The back of your tongue is responsible for the bitter taste.
  • Sides are responsible for sour and salty tastes.
  • And the tip is for tasting sweet stuff.

What it is really?

Unfortunately, it may be hard to digest the fact that taste areas don’t work that way. Although some parts are slightly more sensitive to specific tastes, mostly, all parts of your tongue can taste all the four (or five, or six) tastes almost equally. There are no taste area demarcations. Please don’t unsubscribe me for debunking something that you’ve believed in all these years.

Agreed it isn’t completely BS, you can call it an oversimplification of something. But one thing is for sure – It shouldn’t be shown on science books. The worst part – We have known this fact for more than 30 years and we still continue to propagate the misconception in school textbooks.

Where did this start?

It started a century back when a German scientist D.P. Hainig did a study which relied on subjective whims of his subjects. In five words, it was not very scientific. They were asked to report which parts of their tongues tasted which flavor. And THERE! He had a result – The tongue map.

Test at home

All said, I tried this at home. Since the ‘sweet buds’ are said to be located on and near the tip of the tongue, I found that it would be easy to isolate these buds by sticking out my tongue (and looking dumb by doing that. Fortunately, I did it in a closed room). Now, I placed a few sugar crystals in the middle part of the tongue. I made sure that it never touched my tip. The sugar did not taste sweet at all. And as soon as I retracted my tongue, the sweet taste was felt. Confusing!

However, salt tasted salty at the tip of the tongue. According to the map, it isn’t supposed to.

Well, that test wasn’t really scientific. It was exactly what the German scientist D.P. Hanig did to come out with the tongue map. It was busted in the year 1974 by a scientist named Virginia Collings.

5 thoughts on “Taste Areas on the Tongue is a Lie”

  1. I myself did this experiment with different things in my childhood and always found this taste map to be wrong, but was never sure

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *