Hedonics of taste-odor mixtures in humans: A study of flavor perception

Lori Ann Whitten, McMaster University


Most research done on taste and smell has examined the two systems in isolation. This is unfortunate since it is the combination of taste and smell that determines flavor, perhaps the most salient characteristic of food for humans. Thus, the experiments that comprise this dissertation focused on the pleasantness of taste-odor mixtures.^ Three food odors (chocolate, raspberry, and popcorn) at five concentrations were utilized as stimuli. Experiment 1 replicated the psychophysical functions that have been reported in the literature relating stimulus strength, perceived intensity, and perceived pleasantness with these three odors. Experiments 2 and 3 demonstrated that a negative taste experienced concomitantly with odor reduces odor pleasantness ratings. Experiment 4 established that it is unlikely that this effect results from a general negative affective state since an aversive non-gustatory stimulus did not produce a similar reduction in odor pleasantness.^ It is clear that hunger increases the pleasantness of sweet taste relative to the sated state, but the effect of metabolic state on odor hedonics is unclear. Thus, in Experiment 6, I first replicated alliesthesia for sweet taste and demonstrated that aversive tastes are not made more pleasant by hunger. More importantly, though, Experiment 6 showed a clear odor alliesthesia effect; that is, a reduction of odor pleasantness when subjects are full relative to hungry.^ The main goal of these experiments was to explore the hedonics of taste-odor mixtures in humans. These examinations increase our understanding of the chemical senses in general and may be particularly pertinent to understanding the relationship between food hedonics and ingestive behavior. Future work should concentrate on whether food hedonics as studied psychophysically in the manner of the experiments comprising this dissertation predict food preferences or intake. Additionally, the influence of cognitive factors (e.g. identification of the odor as food related) on the hedonics of taste-odor mixtures should be determined. (Abstract shortened by UMI.) ^

Subject Area

Agriculture, Food Science and Technology|Psychology, Experimental

Recommended Citation

Lori Ann Whitten, "Hedonics of taste-odor mixtures in humans: A study of flavor perception" (January 1, 1995). ETD Collection for McMaster University. Paper AAINN05877.