A hypercubic model for oral perception

G.B. Dijksterhuis (1, 2), R. A. de Wijk (1, 2),

1 WCFS, Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences, the Netherlands;

2 WUR, Agrotechnology and Food Innovations, the Netherlands



We present a conceptual model for texture perception, based on the dynamic ‘breakdown’ model introduced by Hutchings and Lillford (1988). Their model is based on structural parameters and can be drawn as a cube with edges denoting lubrication, structure breakdown and time. In fact it is a two dimensional structural model that allows for changes in time. We propose to turn this model into a ‘perceptional’ breakdown model , by replacing the structural edges with perceptional ones.


This model describes texture rather than structure (cf. Wilkinson et al. 2001) of food. An example of such a model is presented in Dijksterhuis and de Wijk (2005ab), where creaminess is presented as a cubic model based on the dimensions creamy to rough, melting to thick and heterogeneous to airy. This three dimensional model can be augmented with a time dimension turning it into a dynamic cubic model. This can be further generalised by introducing more than three sensory dimensions. Since there are seven, or more, distinct sense-systems active in oral texture perception, a higher-than-three dimensional model should not be ruled out a priori. A dynamic, hypercubic perceptional breakdown model results.


A food product, during oral manipulation, traces a trajectory through the hypercube, see the point Ps which traces the line that runs from black dot to black dot in the left part of the figure below. When sensory descriptive data are collected, a PCA on the data matrix can be interpreted to give an optimal subspace through the hypercube (see right part of figure).


The model can serve as an aid in thinking about the dynamic oral perception of texture and of food in general, devising new experiments, and comparison of the dynamics of oral breakdown of different products.


Key words: texture, dynamic, breakdown, model



Dijksterhuis, G.B., De Wijk, R. (2005a). Chapter IV 4: Data Integration. in: Soft Food Materials: Functionality of Structures, Marcel Paques (ed.). Food Science & Technology Series. Marcel Dekker.

De Wijk, R.A., Dijksterhuis, G.B. (2005b). Creaminess is three dimensional. Abstract for the 6th Pangborn Sensory Science Symposium. 7-11 August 2005, Harrogate, UK.

Hutchings, J. B., Lillford, P.J. (1988). The perception of food texture-the philosophy of the breakdown path. Journal of Texture Studies 19: 103-115.

Wilkinson, C., Dijksterhuis, G.B., Minekus, M. (2001). From food structure to texture. Trends in Food Science and Technology, 11, 442-450.