The Importance of Multisensory Integration to Understand Products Appreciation: Fmri Study

Laura Romoli, Illycaffè S.P.A., Italy
Furio Suggi Liverani , Illycaffè S.P.A., Italy
Piero Paolo Battaglini, University of Trieste, Italy
It is well known that flavour is a psychological construct. Flavour, in fact, is an example of multisensory integration, because is a taste/odour combination. Rarely individual components are perceived independently. Manifestations of interactions include smell/taste confusions, attribution of taste properties to odours, and the enhancement and suppression of taste by such odours. Moreover, food is characterized by visual properties, above all colour. Colour, in fact, has a profound effect on the perception of odors. In everyday life the existence of cross-modal association between vision and olfaction is obvious; if you are in a market and suddenly noticed a wonderful smell of ripe strawberries you would look for a fruit that was red rather than a fruit that was orange. Even if these associations between vision and olfaction would appear obvious, to date little research has attempted to investigate this potentially important topic. Gottfried et al. has shown that the presentation of visual stimuli can influence olfactory information processing; but what it is known about the contrary? Could a smell stimulus influence visual perception? To address this complex topic, it is important to understand what the role of higher-level cognitive factors are in the appreciation and comprehension of a smell or a taste stimulus. In this study, we investigated, with the fMRI technique, how the citrus aroma is processed by the brain, at the cortical level. There is a large amount of study in psychophysical literature underlying the cross-modal association between colors and odors. Many of the odors that we come across everyday life can be readily described by means of colors. But, what happens in our brain when we smell the citrus aroma? Does the brain elaborate the aroma just as a smell stimulus, or elaborate also others perceptual characteristics of it? We address this issue, investigating 13 healthy subjects with fMRI technique while they were sniffing the citrus aroma.
[ to cite ]:
Laura Romoli, Furio Suggi Liverani , and Piero Paolo Battaglini (2011) ,"The Importance of Multisensory Integration to Understand Products Appreciation: Fmri Study ", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 39, eds. Rohini Ahluwalia, Tanya L. Chartrand, and Rebecca K. Ratner, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 746-747.