Monday, December 12, 2011

Cross-sensory Perception

It's not surprising that scientists are discovering the great extent to which our senses act in concert to help us make sense of the world. This weekend's Boston Globe Ideas section included an article that reviewed some recent research into cross-sensory perception. Some findings of note:
His [Oxford University researcher Charles Spence] recent work on the psychology of flavor perception, for instance, has shown that the flavor of your food is influenced by touch, vision, and even sound. A study from his lab a few years ago showed that people rate potato chips as crisper and better-tasting when a louder crunch is played back over headphones as they eat. 
A study published this year showed that people thought a strawberry mousse tasted sweeter, more intense, and better when they ate it off a white plate rather than a black plate. 
In some cases they [senses] compete with each other and one wins out (as your eyes win over your ears in the movies). In others, the information merges into something new; when people watch a video of a person saying “ga” while the audio is dubbed with a voice saying “ba,” they hear an intermediate “da.” 
I tried this last one with a group of students this morning, and while our experiment didn't yield the same results as the professional researcher, we were all quite excited to consider the complexities of our senses and the applications of this research to a variety of fields and professions, including cooking, marketing, and art.

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