Optimizing descriptive analysis
Descriptive sensory analysis is one of the most powerful tools available to the sensory scientist. Regardless of the individual approach to descriptive analysis there are the common steps of identifying the attributes that describe the product, bringing a panel to agreement on the descriptors that are used, establishing a working scale that captures the range of intensities and practicing the method to gain individual and collective proficiency. Much emphasis has been placed on the statistical measures of panel and panellist performance. Although this is important, it may only tell us after the fact that the panel was off target.
Optimization of the descriptive analysis panel focuses on training and providing immediate, meaningful feedback to accelerate learning and establish calibration standards permitting panel-to-panel comparisons over time and locations. Computerized feedback has been demonstrated to be an effective training tool. However, for the feedback to work it must also be true and consistent. This requires a clear understanding of the behaviour of the psychometric function of each attribute within the context of the product being tested. Optimization also relies on group feedback at the end of each session that reinforces the learning that takes place. The results of several panels will be used to provide specific examples of the power of this method.
Findlay, C.J. (2004). Optimizing descriptive analysis. In: The Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting + Food Expo 2004. Technical Program: Advances in sensory science symposium. July 12-16, 2004. Las Vegas, NV, USA.