Role of visual and auditory cues in multisensory perception of flavor

by Massimiliano Zampini (Center of Mind/Brain Sciences, CIMeC, University of Trento)

The consumption of food and drink are among the most multisensory of our perceptual experiences. In fact, the evaluation of foodstuffs is not only influenced by the unified oral sensation (or Gestalt) of taste and smell in the mouth but also by what the foods look, feel (i.e., oral texture, temperature, viscosity, etc.), and sound like (particularly for noisy foods such as crisps, celery, carrots, etc.) when we eat or drink them. 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. In my presentation, I will describe possible contribution of visual and auditory cues to the multisensory perception of food highlighting the fact that any 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 while auditory cues are typically primarily perceived when we are actually consuming food. Moreover, the impact of the visual and auditory cues on flavor perception will be discussed in relation to the growing body of neurophysiological and electrophysiological data demonstrating the intimate link between multisensory flavor information at a neuronal level. Finally, I will provide some examples of the impact of multisensory input on food perception in more applied contexts.