Effects of Sequential Sensory Cues on Food Taste Perception: Cross-Modal Interplay Between Visual and Olfactory Stimuli

Dipayan Biswas, University of South Florida
Lauren I. Labrecque, University of Rhode Island
Donald R. Lehmann, Columbia University


Sensory cues are often encountered sequentially (rather than simultaneously) in retailing, food packaging, and other consumption contexts. While prior studies on effects of sensory cues have examined scenarios where the sensory cues are encountered simultaneously, this research takes the novel approach of examining order effects of different sensory cues encountered sequentially. Specifically, four experiments examine the effects of sequentially encountered visual and olfactory sensory cues on food taste perception. We theorize and find empirical evidence that an olfactory cue benefits from first encountering a visual cue, but not vice versa. More specifically, encountering a visual cue before (vs. after) an olfactory cue (i.e., V-O vs. O-V sequence) results in more positive outcomes (higher taste perception, volume consumed, product recommendation, and choice). Moreover, ease of processing the olfactory cue mediates the effect of sensory cue sequence on taste perception. These findings highlight the sensory cross-modal effects of sequential visual and olfactory cues on gustatory perceptions and have implications for consumer well-being as well as for food/beverage packaging and for designing retail outlets and restaurants.