Against this background, European researchers have highlighted interesting elements to be considered when studying consumer behaviour. The ‘Cognitive common currency or contextual bargaining ? A new model for food preferences‘ (4CB) project, funded by the EU, posed a set of questions related to the context of food consumption. These questions ask: ‘Which variables should be included as contextual?’, ‘How do the variables interact?’, and ‘How can contextual influences be studied using controlled laboratory protocols?’
A novel approach was adopted to provide answers, with 4CB combining cognitive neuroscience
, experimental psychology
and fundamental conceptual approaches
.Project members demonstrated a series of correspondences relating to sounds and odours
, shapes and tastes
, and shapes and flavours
. For example, a product that has a bitter taste
is usually congruent with angular
rather than rounded shapes.
Research in this area of cross-modal congruence (correspondences) bridged gaps by investigating the behavioural, cognitive and emotional effects of these correspondences in other modalities.
Findings challenge the clear divide between low-level perceptual or emotional influences and high-level cognitive influences (cultural background and expectations regarding specific products, for example). An example of the first influence would be the fact that heat and thirst increase drinking behaviour.
The outcomes and knowledge contributed by 4CB offer the potential to guide behaviour (so-called nudging). Contacts have been made with several companies interested in exploiting this possibility.