Manipulating basic taste perception to explore how product information affects experience

Manipulating basic taste perception to explore how product information affects experience

By
Ab Litt, Baba Shiv
Journal of Consumer Psychology. January
2012, Vol. 22, Issue 1, Pages 55–66

We introduce a novel physiologically-based methodology to consumer research—using the glycoprotein miraculin to manipulate the ability to sense and perceive specific taste elements in gustatory experiences. We apply this approach to exploring how information extrinsic (e.g., product reviews) to a product’s inherent sensory facets influences reported consumption experiences and experienced utility. Results from two experiments suggest that extrinsic information distorts the basic sensory and perceptual character of consumption experiences, rather than simply biasing self-reports of the experiences or serving as an independent input to overall taste and utility evaluations. Such evaluations are distorted in the direction of extrinsic product information only when the ability to actually perceive the experience as being consistent with the extrinsic signal is not disrupted by miraculin. Conversely, disruption by miraculin of the ability to perceive an experience as being consistent with an extrinsic signal ablates or reverses such effects. Implications, applications to brands and branding, and other possible research directions for the miraculin taste-manipulation methodology are also discussed.