Sensory analysis
Sensory analysis is a scientific
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 discipline that applies principles of experimental design and statistical analysis to the use of human sense
Senses are physiological capacities of organisms that provide inputs for perception. The senses and their operation, classification, and theory are overlapping topics studied by a variety of fields, most notably neuroscience, cognitive psychology , and philosophy of perception...

s (sight
Visual perception
Visual perception is the ability to interpret information and surroundings from the effects of visible light reaching the eye. The resulting perception is also known as eyesight, sight, or vision...

, smell
Olfaction is the sense of smell. This sense is mediated by specialized sensory cells of the nasal cavity of vertebrates, and, by analogy, sensory cells of the antennae of invertebrates...

, taste
Taste is one of the traditional five senses. It refers to the ability to detect the flavor of substances such as food, certain minerals, and poisons, etc....

, touch and hearing
Hearing (sense)
Hearing is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations through an organ such as the ear. It is one of the traditional five senses...

) for the purposes of evaluating consumer products. The discipline requires panels of human assessors, on whom the products are tested, and recording the responses made by them. By applying statistical techniques to the results it is possible to make inferences and insights about the products under test. Most large consumer goods companies have departments dedicated to sensory analysis.

Sensory analysis can mainly be broken down into three sub-sections:
  • Effective testing (dealing with objective facts about products)
  • Affective testing (dealing with subjective facts such as preferences)
  • Perception (the biochemical and psychological aspects of sensation)

Effective testing

This type of testing is concerned with obtaining objective facts about products. This could range from basic discrimination testing
Discrimination testing
Discrimination testing is a technique employed in sensory analysis to determine whether there is a detectable difference among two or more products...

 (e.g. Do two or more products differ from each other?) to descriptive profiling (e.g. What are the characteristics of two or more products?). The type of panel required for this type of testing would normally be a trained panel
Trained panel
A trained panel of analysts is required to perform the sensory analysis of any product.Many aspects need to be taken into account before a sensory panel is formed. The tests that one uses to screen people for a panel should be related to the product itself...


Methods for collection and statistical analysis of sensory data include Free choice profiling
Free choice profiling
Free-choice profiling is a method for determining the quality of a thing by having a large number of subjects experience it and then allowing them to describe the thing in their own words, as opposed to posing them a set of "yes-no-maybe" questions...

, and Generalized procrustes analysis
Generalized Procrustes analysis
Generalized Procrustes analysis is a method of statistical analysis that can be used to compare the shapes of objects, or the results of surveys, interviews, panels. It was developed for analyising the results of free-choice profiling, a survey technique which allows respondents to describe a...


Affective testing

Also known as consumer testing, this type of testing is concerned with obtaining subjective data, or how well products are likely to be accepted. Usually large (50 or more) panels of untrained personnel are recruited for this type of testing, although smaller focus group
Focus group
A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging...

s can be utilised to gain insights into products. The range of testing can vary from simple comparative testing (e.g. Which do you prefer, A or B?) to structured questioning regarding the magnitude of acceptance of individual characteristics (e.g. Please rate the "fruity aroma": dislike|neither|like).


Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs...

 involves the biochemical and psychological theories relating to human (and animal) sensations
Sensation and perception psychology
In psychology, sensation and perception are stages of processing of the senses in human and animal systems, such as vision, auditory, vestibular, and pain senses. These topics are considered part of psychology, and not anatomy or physiology, because processes in the brain so greatly affect the...

. By understanding the mechanisms involved it may be possible to explain why certain characteristics are preferred over others.

Descriptive analysis involves trained panels (6-30 people) who evaluate products by rating the intensity of various characteristics on a scale. Statistical analyses are applied to look for differences among various products for characteristics of interest.

Consumer testing (sometimes called 'hedonic testing') involves having potential consumers of a product evaluate various products and a small number of items on a ballot
A ballot is a device used to record choices made by voters. Each voter uses one ballot, and ballots are not shared. In the simplest elections, a ballot may be a simple scrap of paper on which each voter writes in the name of a candidate, but governmental elections use pre-printed to protect the...


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