Perceptive expectation

Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine

Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine
Barry C. Smith
Oxford University Press, 2007

Perceptive expectation

In the next set of experiments, Brochet invited 54 subjects to take part in a series of experiments in which they had to describe a real red wine and a real white wine. A few days later the same group had to describe the same white wine and this white wine again that had been colored red with a neutral-tasting food colorant.
Interestingly, in both experiments they described the “red” wine using identical terms even though one of them was actually a white wine.

Brochet’s conclusion was that the perception of taste and smell conformed to color: vision is having more of an input in the wine tasting process than most people would think.
Brochet points out a practical application of this observation, which has been known for a long time in the food and fragrance industries: no one sells colorless perfumes any more.

In a second, equally mischievous experiment, Brochet served the same average-quality wine to people at a week’s interval.
The twist was that on the first occasion it was packaged and served to people as a Vin de Table, and on the second as a Grand Cru wine.
So the subjects thought they were tasting a simple wine and then a very special wine, even though it was the same both times.
He analyzed the terms used in the tasting notes, and it makes telling reading. For the “Grand Cru” wine versus the Vin de Table, “a lot” replaces “a little”; “complex” replaces “simple”; and “balanced” replaces “unbalanced”–all because of the sight of the label.

Brochet explains the results through a phenomenon called “perceptive expectation“: a subject perceives what they have pre-perceived, and then they find it difficult to back away from that.
For us humans, visual information is much more important than chemosensory information

Frédéric Brochet
In this experiment the perception of fragrance and taste conformed to color.
This phenomena has been the object of an abundant literature (Maga, 1974, Dubose, 1980, Davis, 1981, Johnson, 1982, Zellner and Kautz, 1990 in the food processing field; and in the wine field  (André, 1970, Williams, 1984).

see also:

Why We Like What We Like
February 10, 2012
Context matters, and so do our attitudes and expectations. My dad used to say that Chinese food tastes better with chop sticks. And he was right. Not because he was snob, or deluded, but because he appreciated that enjoying the food is wrapped up with a way of thinking about it, handling it, chewing it.