Seminar Series

Gastrophysics: The new science of the diner

In this talk, I want to take a look at some of the latest findings from the emerging science of gastrophysics (gastronomy + psychophysics). In contrast to the traditional sensory science, or neurogastronomy approaches, gastrophysics involves large-scale online research, massive citizen science data collection and, on occasion, the assessment of actual diners in realistic situations (not to mention the odd laboratory study). Intriguingly, chefs and food companies are already starting to deliver products to market incorporating some of the latest insights concerning multisensory flavour perception based on how the brain actually combines taste and smell stimuli. However, I want to focus instead on the influence of three senses that aren’t normally associated with flavour perception, and demonstrate their profound impact on our experience of food and drink. I will start by taking a look at the latest findings from the art and science of plating. For the main course, I will review the emerging science of ‘sonic seasoning’ – i.e., accentuating specific sensory attributes in actual foods and drinks by the presentation of music/soundscapes designed around the latest crossmodal correspondences research. And for dessert, I will take a look at tactile design, everything from the weight of your spoon to the texture of your plate and cutlery. Taken together, the emerging art- and neuroscience-inspired approach to the design of food/beverage experiences is changing the dining landscape. While this first happens at high-end modernist dining establishments, there is now increasing uptake by global brands for delivery in the home environment, often mediated by the latest in technology. Ultimately, the hope is that some of these insights may also help address, in some small way, the various big issues around food facing society today. Spence, C. (2017). Gastrophysics: The new science of eating. London, UK: Penguin.