Food and the Senses: Sensory Science and the Evaluation of Food
Sensory Science is the subdiscipline of Food Science concerned with how food is perceived by humans—most of us are familiar with some examples like “taste testing” of different products. Overall, sensory science and the sensory evaluation of food focus on using humans as measuring instruments for flavor. Sensory scientists like myself are interested in how we can rigorously produce stable measurements of flavor in foods from self-reported human experiences. In this talk, I will give a brief introduction to the physiology and psychology of how humans perceive flavor and the methods and theories behind the sensory evaluation of food. I will then present some results of my current sensory research program, which focuses on the flavors of fermented and distilled products. Throughout, I will use a “show and tell” (really—“taste and tell”) approach to demonstrate examples.
Dr. Lahne’s specific expertise is in sensory evaluation: how food is perceived by humans. He is particularly interested in craft and artisan food production, which broadly includes small producers, traditional practices and home and restaurant cooking. He is currently working on a number of research projects, including: the development of a measurement tool for individuals’ capacity for food-preparation; the flavor profiling and consumer liking for American whiskeys; and the perception of foods in vivo within real meal-contexts. Recently, Dr. Lahne has also been increasingly involved in the critical study of sensory evaluation itself, a topic which has brought him into alignment with Science and Technology Studies (STS). He collaborates frequently with researchers in the humanities and social sciences to tackle these interdisciplinary projects.