Coffee and Cognition: Examining Intracultural Variation in American Consumer Perception

Date and Time: 
Friday, 13 April, 2012 - 22:40 to 23:00
Smith, Ian - University of Arkansas

Over 50% of the US adult population consumes coffee daily, a global commodity with enormous sociocultural and economic relevance. This project seeks to examine intracultural variation in coffee perception among American consumers in a way that sheds light on how coffee is envisioned, understood, and appreciated intraculturally. Variation was assessed by examining free-lists of descriptive words associated with coffee consumption. Here, descriptive word occurrence was assessed in a convenience sample of college students with varying levels of knowledge, appreciation, and routine consumption of coffee. In particular, it is shown that experts prioritize a complex spectrum of flavors and variations in method of preparation when describing coffee, while those who consume less coffee highlight coffee's perceived biobehavioral effects and motivations for consumption. The sensorial dimensions guiding how coffee is experienced individually and socially are shown to contribute meaningfully to the growing research devoted to food flavor and chemistry in culture-specific contexts.