Which “taste” do you mean? sensory parsing versus cognitive dissonance

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Sensory parsing versus cognitive dissonance.

[This post was the beginning of a lot of inquiry and I was wrong numerous times. In this edit I will try to note how my ideas have changed since I wrote this.]

This post gives a tiny nod to Leonard Koren’s great book Which ‘aesthetics’ do you mean?

One of the stumbling points of discussing flavor theory or culinary theory is the common notion that “we all taste differently”. Many people even say why bother develop a theory “my banana isn’t your banana”.

I believe we taste (sensory parsing) far more similarly than differently and the cause of the belief that many people taste (sensory parsing) differently is in our language or lack thereof. [I hold steady that we parse things very similarly but when you consider ideas like aromas being part illusory or dramatic demonstrations of differences in contrast detection such as with my wormwood hand sanitizer, it is hard to say how similarly.]

It is common to believe our other senses work similarly to each other’s because we are all able to parse things in similar enough ways to function together in the world. We see enough alike to interact with each other and we hear enough alike to to hold oral conversations. Of course there are some exceptions like the color blind, but they are a small minority.

Disbelief that I’m experiencing the same banana as you likely arises from our inability to wrap articulate language around the experience. As opposed to flavor, our other senses are much easier to discuss because they are far less multi sensory. The more senses that a word represents as a metaphor, the more imprecise its meaning because its range grows. Bright to describe a visual experience does not have as much range as a term like full bodied to describe a flavor experience which has to summarize olfaction, gustation, and the haptic sense among others.

Our other senses are also directed less exclusively to optional experiences than flavor. The option of tasting (parsing) only things you think you may like compounds mixing up the act of tasting (parsing) with matters of taste (consonance, dissonance). We may parse an experience relatively similarly (though of course some have better schemas to break things down and can see more than others), but we will each assign different values of consonance and dissonance to what we are perceiving.

I like Campari. You do not. We are probably tasting (parsing) it the same (bitter-sweet) even though I find it more consonant and therefore harmonious than you. Harmony knows no correctness unlike parsing, but rather only authenticity of the conviction. [Parsing knows no correctness either but the differential among people is less severe. I also suspect gustatory contrast detection among people (besides the super taster phenomenon) is significantly more similar than olfactory contrast detection.]

Now that we no longer mix up parsing with consonance and dissonance we can advance culinary via a plane conscious (spatial) understanding of our metaphors which gives us more control over their range. With increasingly articulate communication skills, more people can realization that pronouncements of correctness will only constrain artistic expression.

[I really irked a commentor when I first wrote this and their comments really lingered with me as I read so many others things. They were certainly correct by degrees. I was later able to isolate some of the ways that we do perceive the world differently and Gordon Shepherd’s Neurogastronomy goes into it much deeper.

But we do function in this world together.  Your own case by case ability to detect contrast will give each experience a unique timbre of sort but we can often agree on what flavor experiences are ordinary and what experiences are extraordinary. So for a wine, we might now be able to expect arrival at the same flavor descriptors but we probably can arrive at the judgement of ordinary or extraordinary with demonstrates we construct the world pretty darn similarly.]

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5 thoughts on “Which “taste” do you mean? sensory parsing versus cognitive dissonance

  1. How do you think personal taste history affects not just preference but perception? Taking Campari as an example– it’s not just that the first time I tasted it, it tasted unpleasant to me but that instead of tasting, or knowing I was tasting, sweet-bitter, I felt like I was tasting bitter-bitter, which was not rewarding. Without relevant points of comparison (context) I think we maybe are tasting a little differently.

  2. i think taste history effects preference (consonance, dissonance) and also the refinement of our schemas to parse experience. experience exercises the mind’s eye and enables you to see more.

    when you tasted that campari for the first time, you may not have ever engaged in an analytical tasting strategy. immediately shocked, you did not explore the campari which effected your initial memory of it.

  3. You’re wrong. You’re just wrong on this.

    We do taste differently. I have different protein receptors on my tongue than you do. Physiologically, I taste things differently. My sensory experience of those things is different from yours. Forget context or history or aesthetics. Forget metaphor: I’m not trying to describe what something is like, I am trying to describe the act of experiencing a taste, a flavor. Sure, we can have a lingua franca, and there is, most certainly, a shared vocabulary we can learn in order to communicate certain ideas. But my banana isn’t your banana. I assure you it isn’t. I can describe both of our bananas, hell, I can learn all the flavor compounds in a banana and tell you what they are, in order from most to least. But my experience of that banana will always be unique to me, unless you’re an empath of the highest magnitude. And you’re not.

    I wish your writing were less messy and had the benefit of a good editor. You’ve got some interesting ideas but dammit, you need a little help articulating them.

  4. hi kakesini. its nice to come across someone so passionate.

    sorry about my writing style. it is always done in small amounts of spare time or on the run. this piece and all its parenthesis were supposed to draw attention to the fact that we throw around words that have little meaning without context.

    so of course we “taste” differently, but by how much? and what does that all entale? i wager the influence of parsing and threshold of perception is far less than you would think if not negligible.

    the protein receptors on your tongue are just a small piece of the puzzle and an experiment to target and measure the variance among people could be designed.

    my banana and your banana both have a “shape” which is a function of your various thresholds of perception (probably your unique receptors) and the quantifiables like grams of various sugars and acids among others.

    i wager that these “shapes” are very similar which is why we are able to function in the world so easily together. if we were significantly different i bet we would find numerous eating disorders that were related to threshold of perception variances (more than just a few “super tasters”).

    at a higher level of perception, because flavor is so multisensory, we might find variances in the order of operations of multisensory perception, but i bet it is only in highly trained tasters. for example the 40% alcohol of a typical distillate is giant distract from the aroma for most people, but with training you can use the minds eye to “look” around the alcohol and perceive more of the aroma. without training, for evolutionary reasons, i bet the order of operations of our ability to focus in MSP is pretty much the same.

    so my banana isn’t exactly yours but its close enough and the harmony we find in it is a much separate issue than our ability to parse.

    do you recommend anything i should be reading? what background do you bring to your opinion?


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