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The role of attention in flavour perception

Author(s): Stevenson Richard J

Journal: Flavour
ISSN 2044-7248

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 2;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Abstract Flavour results primarily from the combination of three discrete senses: taste, somatosensation and olfaction. In contrast to this scientific description, most people seem unaware that olfaction is involved in flavour perception. They also appear poorer at detecting the olfactory components of a flavour relative to the taste and somatosensory parts. These and other findings suggest that flavour may in part be treated as a unitary experience. In this article, I examine the mechanisms that may contribute to this unification, in particular the role of attention. Drawing on recent work, the evidence suggests that concurrent gustatory and somatosensory stimulation capture attention at the expense of the olfactory channel. Not only does this make it hard to voluntarily attend to the olfactory channel, but it also can explain why olfaction goes largely unnoticed in our day-to-day experience of flavour. It also provides a useful framework for conceptualizing how the unitary experience of flavour may arise from three anatomically discrete sensory systems.
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