Perceptual mapping of chemesthetic stimuli in Spanish and English speakers

Open Access
Boone, Laura Marie
Area of Honors:
Food Science
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • John E Hayes, Thesis Supervisor
  • John Neil Coupland, Honors Advisor
  • chemesthesis
  • sorting task
  • multidimensional scaling
  • food sensory
  • FIS
  • AISS
Chemesthetic stimuli, such as capsaicin (chili peppers), zingerone (ginger), and menthol, elicit complex sensory responses that are often difficult to describe, given the range of temperature, touch, and pain sensations experienced. Recently, the sorting task has been applied to chemesthetic stimuli in an attempt to minimize linguistic contamination of perception. Given the growing influence of Hispanic culture in the U.S., we were interested in exploring how Hispanic and American ethnic backgrounds influence the perception of chemesthetic stimuli and the attributes used to describe the stimuli in two languages. The sorting task is especially well-suited for use in cross cultural studies because it relies on the cognitive process of categorization rather than the language-based process of description. A group of native Spanish-speaking Hispanic participants sorted nine chemesthetic stimuli and two tastants into groups based on perceived similarity and then labeled each group with a description in Spanish. The results of this data collection, analyzed by multidimensional scaling, were compared to the equivalent data collected from another group of native English-speaking individuals. A significant difference was found between the perceptual mapping of chemesthetic stimuli of Spanish and English speakers; the Spanish cohort showed less distinction between chemesthetic stimuli, creating fewer clusters with higher stress. Textual analysis showed that the Spanish speakers were less consensual regarding attributes but provided a greater number of unique descriptors than the English speakers. Personality measures and food involvement data were also collected from these participants to further understand the effect of ethnicity on perception of chemesthetic stimuli. Our findings suggest that native Spanish-speaking Hispanics, specifically those who have emigrated to the U.S., are more idiosyncratic in their perception and description of chemesthetic sensations than native English-speaking Americans.