When it comes to taste, we often assume that what we taste comes from the sensory buds on our tongues. Well, it is so much more than that. We can actually smell, touch, see, and even, hear taste. This is what we call, multi-sensory perception. Essentially, multi-sensory perception is when our brains use multiple senses to work together and perceive the environment around us. According to the textbook See What I'm Saying: The Extraordinary Powers of Our Five Senses, not only do all of your senses have direct influences on taste. They also all have indirect influences on taste that work together and influence each other (Rosenblum, 2010, pg. 134). Working together to enhance the experience of taste.
An example of how multi-sensory perception works on taste can be seen by simply eating a salad. Imagine you have a bowl of Caesar dressing salad in front of you. Before you even take a bite, you smell the dressing and the mixed ingredients. This on its own already enhances the way the entire dish will taste. Essentially, the odor of the salad creates this expectation in your head as you can already imagine what the meal will taste like. Your brain uses memory as well to distinguish the flavors. Now, when you take a bite, the crunching sound of the salad and croutons creates this pleasurable flavor as it works together with texture. This coincides with touch, as people have preferences for the feeling of what they eat. After all, having a soggy salad would actually create a displeasing taste in one's mouth. Speaking of pleasing, the entire sight of the salad itself is what also makes the food taste better, on top of the taste it provides. The appearance of food influences how appetizing one might perceive their meals (Rosenblum, 2010, pg. 123). A huge role in this is seen through color and memory. If you don't see the food you are used to eating, you won't entirely find it as appealing or interesting as you normally would. Or, if the meal, in this case the salad, has dull colors to it, you might look at it as flavorless. On top of all these senses, the obvious one that works with these is taste. As we start to chew, all the flavors of what was in the bowl combined together and create this salty palate from the cheese, dressing, and lettuce (and if you were to add chicken).
Overall, it isn't just taste that uses multi-sensory perception, all the senses use it. The example above is just a depiction of how taste is enhanced and or distinguished through more than just our tongues. We don't even realize the small inputs we take in every day. Think of it this way, we know by memory what water looks like. If someone were to give you a class and said it is water, but it had a yellow tint to it, we wouldn't find it appealing at all. By using our eyes, we were able to "taste" how unappealing it is. Even if it had a weird odor, we can smell how unappetizing it taste as well. So, take notice the next time you eat something. Make a note in your brain of all the senses you never really realized before. Notice how they all work together to make the perfect flavor.