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  • Does the visual composition of a dish influence the perception of portion size and hedonic preference?

    3 July 2018

    We report two experiments designed to assess how the plating (i.e., visual composition) of a dish influences people's hedonic preferences and their perception of portion size. In Experiment 1 (conducted online; N = 122), we examined whether varying the orientation of the food on the plate (either vertically stacked or horizontally arrayed) would affect people's ratings of liking (of the visual arrangement), willingness-to-pay for the dish, artistic value (how artistic the dish looks), and perceived portion size. Experiment 2 (N = 124) extended this research to a naturalistic dining context, demonstrating the influence of both plating arrangement (horizontal vs. vertical) and centrality (centred vs. offset plating) on the same ratings. In both experiments, the plate of food was rated as constituting a larger portion when the elements were arrayed-horizontally rather than stacked vertically. Additionally, the centrally-plated dessert was rated as a larger portion than the offset version of exactly the same dish. The food was also liked more and the participants/diners were willing to pay more for it when horizontally and/or centrally arranged. These results provide important guidelines for enhancing the visual arrangement of a dish, in order to increase enjoyment, and possibly also nudge consumers toward better food choices.

  • Developmental changes in the perception of visuotactile simultaneity.

    3 July 2018

    A simultaneity judgment (SJ) task was used to measure the developmental trajectory of visuotactile simultaneity perception in children (aged 7, 9, 11, and 13 years) and adults. Participants were presented with a visual flash in the center of a computer monitor and a tap on their right index finger (located 20° below the flash) with 13 possible stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs). Participants reported whether the flash and tap were presented at the same time. Compared with the adult group, children aged 7 and 9 years made more simultaneous responses when the tap led by more than 300 ms and when the flash led by more than 200 ms, whereas they made fewer simultaneous responses at the 0 ms SOA. Model fitting demonstrated that the window of visuotactile simultaneity became narrower with development and reached adult-like levels between 9 and 11 years of age. Response errors decreased continuously until 11 years of age. The point of subjective simultaneity (PSS) was located on the tactile-leading side in all participants tested, indicating that 7-year olds (the youngest age tested) are adult-like on this measure. In summary, the perception of visuotactile simultaneity is not fully mature until 11 years of age. The protracted development of visuotactile simultaneity perception may be related to the need for crossmodal recalibration as the body grows and to the developmental improvements in the ability to optimally integrate visual and tactile signals.

  • Alpha Oscillations Are Causally Linked to Inhibitory Abilities in Ageing.

    29 June 2018

    Aging adults typically show reduced ability to ignore task-irrelevant information, an essential skill for optimal performance in many cognitive operations, including those requiring working memory (WM) resources. In a first experiment, young and elderly human participants of both genders performed an established WM paradigm probing inhibitory abilities by means of valid, invalid, and neutral retro-cues. Elderly participants showed an overall cost, especially in performing invalid trials, whereas younger participants' general performance was comparatively higher, as expected.Inhibitory abilities have been linked to alpha brain oscillations but it is yet unknown whether in aging these oscillations (also typically impoverished) and inhibitory abilities are causally linked. To probe this possible causal link in aging, we compared in a second experiment parietal alpha-transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) with either no stimulation (Sham) or with two control stimulation frequencies (theta- and gamma-tACS) in the elderly group while performing the same WM paradigm. Alpha- (but not theta- or gamma-) tACS selectively and significantly improved performance (now comparable to younger adults' performance in the first experiment), particularly for invalid cues where initially elderly showed the highest costs. Alpha oscillations are therefore causally linked to inhibitory abilities and frequency-tuned alpha-tACS interventions can selectively change these abilities in the elderly.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Ignoring task-irrelevant information, an ability associated to rhythmic brain activity in the alpha frequency band, is fundamental for optimal performance. Indeed, impoverished inhibitory abilities contribute to age-related decline in cognitive functions like working memory (WM), the capacity to briefly hold information in mind. Whether in aging adults alpha oscillations and inhibitory abilities are causally linked is yet unknown. We experimentally manipulated frequency-tuned brain activity using transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), combined with a retro-cue paradigm assessing WM and inhibition. We found that alpha-tACS induced a significant improvement in target responses and misbinding errors, two indexes of inhibition. We concluded that in aging alpha oscillations are causally linked to inhibitory abilities, and that despite being impoverished, these abilities are still malleable.

  • Editorial

    29 June 2018