The Research Hive scholars are running a “research in plain English” prize draw. The idea is to practise giving a synopsis of your research in such a way that anybody could understand it. I thought I’d have a go because it sounds easy, doesn’t it?  

Well, it wasn’t. My effort is 298 words long, but I have used diagrams to help illustrate what I’m trying to say. My ‘pitch’ feels a little over-simplified – not because of the plain language, but because the word limit forced me to be very selective about what I included, and what I left out.

Could you do it? Give it a go and leave a link to your own Research in Plain English in the comments!

What makes us stop eating? We feel full, there may be no more available, we are saving room for pudding, or controlling our diet deliberately… but sometimes it’s simply because the food has lost its appeal while we were eating it. In this last instance satiation is not generalised to other foods – we may still have an appetite for crisps after eating a sandwich – and this phenomenon is called ‘Sensory-Specific Satiety’ (SSS).

SSS is a decline in liking for an Eaten food that occurs during consumption and recovers to baseline within a couple of hours. We become accustomed to the sensory properties of the food while eating, e.g. the flavour (combined smell and taste), texture and mouthfeel. ‘Uneaten’ foods – those we briefly sample – are not subject to the same pleasantness decline.

Diagram of SSS testing paradigm
Figure 1: Diagram of the SSS testing paradigm

Figure 1 is a visual representation of the SSS testing paradigm. Bite-size food samples are tasted, and participants indicate on a sliding scale how pleasant they find each of them (among other ratings). A larger portion of one of these foods is then consumed (and becomes the Eaten food). Finally, the same samples from the first stage are tasted and rated again.

Graphical representation of pleasantness decline for Eaten and Uneaten foods
Figure 2: Classic SSS - greater pleasantness decline for Eaten than Uneaten food

We deduct Pre-consumption ratings from post-consumption ratings for each food: negative scores represent the extent to which the food declined in pleasantness. Figure 2 shows a classic example of SSS – the Eaten food shows a much greater pleasantness decline than the Uneaten (data taken from one of my experiments).

My research explored the factors that influence the extent to which SSS develops. My findings indicate that baseline pleasantness and novelty ratings are critical – foods that are not pleasant, and those that are familiar will restrict the development of SSS. The number of Uneaten foods used during experimentation can alter expectations, increasing the magnitude of SSS.

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