Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Karen Lancendorfer

Second Advisor

Robert Harrison


There are reportedly only roughly six tastes a human can differentiate between. Humans usually only describe taste as salty, bitter, spicy, sweet, sour, and umami. However, do humans only have the knowledge to describe six tastes and actually are experiencing a wide array of tastes? For example, is my spicy the same as others spicy? To what degree do humans experience taste differently and how do the enzymes on an individual’s tongue affect taste? Throughout this thesis, I hope to more specifically define taste. My research will focus on discovering how human’s sensory receptors of taste affect their consumer behavior and purchasing intentions, which then affects their shopping behavior. Also to discover whether consumer’s sense of taste is a conditioned or unconditioned stimulus, this may be altered through continuous exposure to a particular taste. For example, will exposure to a particular spice, such as ghost peppers, which may have once been thought as extremely spicy, eventually not taste as spicy after repeated exposure?

Understanding how human’s sensory receptors function and how the brain processes information is extremely complex, and may never truly be understood, even with all the advancements in modern medicine and technology. The sense of taste not only determines whether or not a consumer will accept a food item as satisfactory. Every sense contributes to a consumer’s conscious and unconscious opinion of taste. Consumer’s senses vary in sensitivity too. Individuals have different amounts and types of taste buds because everyone possesses different enzymes on their tongue. Taste buds are also constantly regenerating. The average life span of a human taste bud is 10-14 days (Miura, H., Kusakbe, Y., & Harada, S., 2006). Does this mean a person’s taste buds are constantly changing or are the same types of taste buds being regenerated? This report will mainly focus on the sense of taste, but may allude to other senses to demonstrate the effect of sensory receptors in general on consumer behavior. The first objective of this thesis is to identify if a consumers taste sensory receptors are constantly altering. The second objective is to discover through secondary research if consumers sense of taste can be conditioned to prefer other product alternatives not previously favored. My research will consist of secondary data collected from articles and scholarly materials. Throughout my research, I hope to discover new ways marketers can promote new and existing products to consumers. Most consumers cannot explain why they like a product or how a product tastes, so understanding how a consumer’s perception of taste is established may help marketers advertise products to them more effectively.

A large framework of knowledge is required to be able to fully understand how chemosensory receptors, specifically taste, functions. Researchers are beginning to seek more understanding about this topic, and marketers will be on the forefront of also attempting to comprehend more about consumer’s perception of taste, gaining further insights into the processes of the human mind. Perhaps in the future researchers will be able to develop a more concise list of “tastes”, and I’m curious to find out just how many different tastes humans actually experience. Does it taste sweet, salty, bitter, spicy, or do you just not really know?

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Restricted