The Fourth European Conference on Sensory and Consumer Research took place in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. Roughly 500 of us, a quarter from Spain itself, were in attendance as the Mayor of the city, Mr. Patxi Lazcoz, kicked off the conference by welcoming us to his city, and appealing to us to take the opportunity to discover Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital city of the province and of the Basque Country. Luckily, the conference committee had provided for exploration of both by offering a free guided tour of the city and by organizing an optional conference dinner including a visit to one of the Rioja Wineries, and a walking tour of the historic and striking walled town of Laguardia. Just outside its preserved walls, Laguardia offered memorable, albeit windy, views of the plains of the Rioja Alavesa.
Vitoria-Gasteiz boasts over 42 square metres of green space per person, a multitude of festivals, a charming medieval quarter and of course the delectable pintxos. Beyond the enticements of the nearly one thousand year old city itself, the conference hosted keynote speakers with topics of their own allure.
Of particular interest was Kepa Barcenas of Wrigley’s zealous presentation geared towards Sensory Scientists and their role in the business growth of an organization. Kepa identified 6 Stoppers or hurdles to overcome in adding value to your company: That real value is more important than perceived value, The group is always right, Sensory only tests blind (sometimes testing branded is closer to the real world), The trained elephant complex, What happened to that insight? who cares! (apply insights to answer business questions), and Not paying attention to cultural diversity (cultural preferences, cultural misunderstandings).
John Prescott of the University of Newcastle discussed hedonic and analytical responses and their interactions. He discussed data his lab had gathered suggesting that making a choice between alternatives leads to a preference for the chosen, and also suggesting that liking is suppressed when adding scientific or analytical questions about attributes, regardless if the scientific attributes are all positive or both positive and negative.
Similarly, while discussing emotional responses to scents and using psychological theories of emotion to study them, Sylvain Delplanque of the University of Geneva, asserted that the simple act of choosing modifies the preference, even when the chosen is forgotten. He then went on to describe a new set of scales used to discriminate odour elicited feelings and physiological reactions to various types of aromas.
As the conference came to a close, many of us including myself took up the advice of Mayor Patxi Lazcoz and remained in the historic but modern city. I also had the opportunity to move on and explore the Basque Country, including Donostia along the Northeastern coast while enjoying the hospitality of the people, the perfect hot weather, and of course, the pintxos!