Food & The Senses: Conducting sensory labs during a pandemic

During the Fall 2020 semester, students in ML 715 Food and the Senses were tasked with conducting sensory labs during the Covid-19 pandemic. Equipped with a kit of basic supplies, students intelligently and creatively developed sensory experiments their classmates could take part in from their homes as we gathered virtually. Using qualitative and quantitative approaches, students successfully accounted for and took advantage of the in-home setting and virtual interaction mode in their research on sensory experience.

Sound Lab
Dana Ferrante and Elizabeth Weiler
As part of their sound lab, Elizabeth Weiler and Dana Ferrante compared student
responses to the question “how comfortable are you eating with others in the age of COVID-19?” versus how much they enjoyed eating a seaweed sample as they listened to the sound of people at the ocean. Participants who reported that they were more comfortable eating with others tended to rank sounds with more people as more enjoyable compared to those who reported feeling less comfortable eating around others. This trend, however, was not observed across all sample types and sounds. Future research could explore this question in a controlled laboratory setting and possibly compare people who have been significantly isolated due to COVID versus a control group.
Smell Lab
Stacey Terlik and Lily Gribbel
Stacey Terlik and Lily Gribbel conducted a smell lab to analyze sensory marketing on tea packages. The results of this sensory experiment indicate that smell is more indicative of the lexicon marketed on tea packages than taste. The aggregate data for this experiment highlights that the teas (particularly the flavored teas) most strongly correlate to the verbiage on the tea packaging in the smell phases (particularly after the teas is brewed) of this experiment as opposed to the taste phase.

Taste and Flavor Lab
Madeline Blair and Ryann Monteiro
How the mouth fools the brain – For this sensory lab students in MET ML 715 underwent three sensory evaluation tests using two samples of Ghirardelli chocolates at different cacao percentages to observe perceived bitterness, sweetness, and saltiness showing how the sense of smell has an effect on our ability to taste and how our senses work together to create flavor and that taste and smell are closely linked together!

Sight Lab
Vy Nguyen-Thai and Julian Plovnick
In this sensory lab, participants were asked to rank the sensory qualities of four different citruses on a scale of “kiki” to “bouba”, two images that have historically been used as visual tools to synthetically map auditory stimuli.

Touch Lab

Kate Zheng and Ester Martin

Can we touch and feel delicious without tasting? This lab explored touch as part of the multi-sensory experience of flavor and its connection to emotion. The feel of steak gives us information on how well cooked it is.  How does the touch modality also influence our overall perception of flavor? How does touch influence enjoyment and disgust?

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