Sensory evaluation uses test methods that provide information on how products are perceived through the senses. The importance of sensory perception to food quality is widely appreciated in the food industry, providing a demand for such specialists.
Like other quantitative disciplines, sensory evaluation attempts to provide precise and accurate measurements. Yet, because the data are collected from human beings, who are notoriously variable, sensory evaluation studies pose a special challenge, and statistical techniques are necessary. Basic principles of human judgment and perception are also important, and students are encouraged to take courses in the behavioral sciences. Cornell offers a unique range of courses and research opportunities in sensory evaluation.
Research projects are conducted in three main areas. Methods research is aimed at providing improvements in the reliability and validity of sensory tests. Product-focused research uses sensory analysis to measure the success of variations in product processing or ingredients. Basic research on perception and human judgment advances our understanding of sensory function.