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Review

Assessing the Role of Visual and Auditory Cues in Multisensory Perception of Flavor

In: The Neural Bases of Multisensory Processes. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2012. Chapter 37.
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Review

Assessing the Role of Visual and Auditory Cues in Multisensory Perception of Flavor

Massimiliano Zampini et al.
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Excerpt

Our perception of the objects and events that fill the world in which we live depends on the integration of the sensory inputs that simultaneously reach our various sensory systems (e.g., vision, audition, touch, taste, and smell). Perhaps the best-known examples of genuinely multisensory experiences come from our perception and evaluation of food and drink. The average person would say that the flavor of food derives primarily from its taste in the mouth. They are often surprised to discover that there is a strong “nasal” role in the perception of flavor. In fact, it has been argued that the majority of the flavor of food actually comes from its smell (e.g., Cain 1977; Murphy and Cain 1980; Rozin 1982). Our perception of food and drink, however, is not simply a matter of combining gustatory and olfactory food cues (although this is undoubtedly very important; Dalton et al. 2000). For instance, our evaluation of the pleasantness of a particular foodstuff can be influenced not only by what it looks, smells, and tastes like, but also what it sounds like in the mouth (think, for example, of the auditory sensations associated with biting into a potato chip or a stick of celery; see Spence and Zampini 2006, for a review). The feel of a foodstuff (i.e., its oral–somatosensory attributes) is also very important; the texture, temperature, viscosity, and even the painful sensations we experience when eating hot foods (e.g., chilli peppers) all contribute to our overall multisensory experience of foodstuffs (e.g., Bourne 1982; Lawless et al. 1985; Tyle 1993). Flavor perception is also influenced by the interactions taking place between oral texture and both olfactory and gustatory cues (see also Bult et al. 2007; Christensen 1980a, 1980b; Hollowood et al. 2002). Given the multisensory nature of our perception of food, it should come as little surprise that many studies have been conducted in order to try and understand the relative contribution of each sense to our overall evaluation of food (e.g., see Delwiche 2004; Spence 2002; Stevenson 2009; Stillman 2002). In this chapter, we review the contribution of visual and auditory cues to the multisensory perception of food. Moreover, any possible influence of visual and auditory aspects of foods and drinks might take place at different stages of the food experience. Visual cues are perceived when foodstuffs are outside of the mouth. Auditory cues are typically primarily perceived when we are actually consuming food.

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