Perception Smell Taste and Sight Term Paper

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Perception: Smell, Taste and Sight

Perception

It is a fact that taste is something that is directly influenced by the smell and the sight of the object that one is faced with. As a matter of fact, it is also true that a human being is almost always influenced a great deal with the visual, olfactory and taste cues that one receives when confronted with an object of any kind. One must examine what taste means, at the very outset, if one were to understand how taste can play such a great role in offering olfactory and visual clues to an individual. Taste is generally defined as one of the five senses that an individual uses to interpret the world around one. It would help to remember that the other five senses are those of sight, smell, touch and hearing, all of which offer clues to the world around us, and which are indispensable for an individual. When taken in a specific sense, taste can be defined as the particular sense that is utilized for defining the flavor of the food that one eats, or any other substance that one is required to taste and get a sense of. Taste is one of the two chemical senses of smell and taste, and taste is stimulated by the taste buds that are located on the tongue. When these taste buds, also referred to as 'papillae' contain taste receptors come into contact with certain chemicals, they react and thereby serve to determine the flavor of the object. ("Taste, the biology of taste," n. d.)

Taste buds for all four taste groups of sweet, salty, bitter and sour can be found throughout the mouth, but specific kinds of buds are clustered together in certain areas. While sweetness is detected by taste buds on the tip of the tongue, the taste buds for sour tastes are located on the sides of the tongue, and for salty tastes, toward the front. Bitter taste buds are located on the very back of the tongue can make people gag, and this can often serve as a natural defense mechanism to help prevent poisoning. It is an amazing fact that taste buds are replaced completely once every three to four days, to take the place of those taste buds that have been worn out by scalding or freezing. As a person grows older, his taste buds are not replaced as quickly, and this means that he would need more of the substance in order to taste it properly. Scientists have been able to prove their theory that food habits and tastes are by and large hereditary, and that one's taste in foods is directly influenced by one's heredity. Food preferences are often found to run in families, and also, culture and familiarity with one type of food, both of which may influence the foods that one eats. More importantly, it is the smell, and the texture, and the visual appeal of the food that may directly influence the food preferences of the individual; a person often experiences his first taste of the food by its smell, and smell can play an extremely important role in the taste of the food. ("Taste, the biology of taste," n. d.)

Smell is a sense that directly influences one's taste. Smell, like taste, is known as a chemical sense, because of the fact that it senses chemicals, and it is this sense that one uses to gain an understanding of the environment around us. The information that one can gain through the sense of smell is enormous; for example, one is testing continuously the air that one breathes in, and if, for instance, one were to smell smoke, it would be interpreted as a danger signal by the brain, which would then warn us to escape. Smell is also used to detect the presence of another individual close by, and for the presence of food. It is important to remember that the chemicals that are detected by the sensory systems generally possess certain properties, like for example, odor molecules, which must be small enough to be volatile: less than 300-400 relative molecular mass, so that they would be able to vaporize and thereby to reach the nose so that one would be able to detect the smell through the mucus present in the nose. The human nose is able to detect bad smells at great distances, and this sense is an inherent one; even newborn babies have been found to screw up their faces in disgust when they detect an offensive odor. In fact, the human nose is able to detect more than 10,000 different smells and odors, and in reality, can detect the subtle nuances between tow smells. No two smells actually smell alike, and there can be any number of smells to which the human being is naturally sensitive. (Jacob, n. d.)

In a study conducted by a team of researchers from the School of Psychology, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia and 2 Sensory Science Research Centre, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, in order to test the actual impact of smell on taste, a number of experiments were conducted. One such experiment involved repeated pairings with a tastant like sucrose, which eventually ended in the odor taking on the tastant's qualities, in this case, by becoming more sweet smelling. This means that when sweet smelling odors are experienced with a sweet tastant, then the mixture in which the sweet tastant has been added would be found to be sweeter smelling than if it was not added, and this in turn can be taken to mean that some odors, when they are sniffed, would be able to elicit responses that are closely related to basic tastes. Odors and smells are therefore described more often than not in terms that include taste qualities, perhaps as a direct result of smell co-occurring in the remembered and recollected taste of foods. One of the best examples that would describe this sort of association would be that of an individual smelling honey. This person would in all probability describe the smell as 'sweet', and the smell of vinegar as 'bitter', when he has not actually tasted both these flavors right at that moment. Therefore, it can be stated that those odors and smells that are generally described in terms of taste qualities when they are sniffed would influence the taste of the food for the individual who has sniffed the food. (Prescott; Johnstone; Francis, 2004)

The sense of smell must be given its due importance, especially as far as the influence that smell has on taste is concerned. Without smell there can be no taste: this can be exemplified by a person who has a cold, and who feels that his food does not taste at all. (Brillat-Savarin; Brillat-Savarin, 2002) the sense of smell has, in fact the capacity for compensating for a loss of function in any other part of the mouth, feel experts. (Hummel; Welge-Lussen, 2006) This means that the senses of taste and smell can, to a large extent, be taken in conjunction with each other. Both these functions are directly related to the digestive system of the body, and are in all probability subservient to it. These two senses are more closely associated with each other than any other pair of senses, and it is often stated that the two must cooperate if their duties are to be performed well. For example, as mentioned earlier, when one's nostrils are blocked due to a cold, then the taste of food would suffer; the individual would have no inclination to eat the food that has no flavor or smell or taste. (Aitkin, 1838)

Today, the senses of taste and smell, and the unique cooperation that is achieved by the two when they work in tandem with each other has been taken into consideration by researchers, and it is today that the important role that these two senses may play in serving as disease markers and indicators of early stages of disease like diabetes, hypertension, and certain degenerative diseases of the human nervous system like Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and Korsakoff's psychosis is being recognized everywhere. (Seiden, 1997)

The sight of food, that is, visual cues, also serves to influence taste a great deal. This happens, say experts, because of the fact that one has pats experiences with a particular color of food and its corresponding flavor. This means that when one sees the food in front of us, we would tend to associate it with the flavors that one would have experienced from tasting it, whether it was good or bad. For example, when one sees a piece of bread with a green fungus growing on it, one would automatically, without tasting it, be aware of the fact that the bread would taste bad. Even if one were to dye green patches on the bread, one would still hesitate to taste the bread, because of one's earlier associations with the taste that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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