How do we describe wine imagery? Expertise shapes language usage and multimodal imagery for wine

The acquisition of wine expertise is a multi-faceted and multisensory process with implications for sensory perception, attention, memory, and language production. With the prevalence of the predictive model of brain functioning, one area of burgeoning research interest involves wine mental imagery, since the brain relies on imagined experiences to build predictions for the future. Recent evidence has shown that, for instance, those with higher imagery vividness are more susceptible to wine advertising. However, little is known about the association between mental imagery and other associated cognitive processes, such as the ability to produce words that describe such imagery. 

To answer this question, we compared the performance of 49 wine experts (WSET Diploma level or equivalent) with a control group of 82 novices. All participants completed the newly validated Vividness of Wine Imagery Questionnaire, where they rated perceived vividness of imagery in four different sensory modalities (vision, smell, taste, mouthfeel) over six different tasting scenarios. In addition to rating imagery vividness, they also wrote descriptions of their imagined experiences for each scenario and modality. 

Our results showed that experts and novices differed in both wine imagery vividness and in their use of language to describe imagined wine tasting experiences. First, wine experts experienced more vivid imagery compared to novices in all sensory modalities (smell, taste, mouthfeel) except for vision, where novices experienced a similar level of vividness as experts. Moreover, experts used more words and more source terms to describe their imagery experiences compared to novices. Linguistic analysis revealed that, when describing imagined aromas, experts used words that have a higher level of concreteness, are more strongly associated with olfaction, and are more specific in their description of odours. Finally, we found a positive relationship between imagery vividness and the length of description across all modalities. 

The present study indicates that the acquisition of wine expertise involves changes in both language usage and vividness of olfactory imagery. However, future investigation is needed to elucidate the causal relationship between vocabulary development and imagery specificity.

Presenting author: Qian Janice, WANG – Aarhus University, Denmark

Additionnal authors: Ilja, CROIJMANS | Utrecht University, Netherlands, Robert, PELLEGRINO | Monell Chemical Senses Center, USA

Email: qianjanice.wang@food.au.dk

Keywords: mental imagery; wine expertise; natural language processing; multisensory perception; cognition

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