Sensory and affective response to chocolate differing in cocoa content: a TDS and facial electromyography approach

Jennifer Wagner, Jonathan D. Wilkin, Andrea Szymkowiak, John Grigor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
80 Downloads (Pure)


Existing research has offered insight into facial activities and their associations with hedonic liking during the consumption of basic food samples and suggests facial changes during consumption are linked to the hedonic evaluation of tastes and, thus related to the taster's perception rather than the tastes themselves. This study tests whether, during the consumption of commercially available dark chocolate, a complex food product, which can be high in bitterness but expectedly so, how facial activities are linked to the bitterness levels and the hedonic liking of the samples. To do this we carried out two studies with untrained consumers, the first of which captured temporally dynamic sensory perception during the consumption of dark chocolate samples of 36% and 85% cocoa content, using the Temporal Dominance of Sensations (TDS) approach. The second study captured facial EMG over the corrugator and zygomaticus muscles during the consumption of dark chocolate samples (36%, 70%, and 85% cocoa). Specifically, the aim of this research was to investigate whether corrugator activity had a greater association with bitterness perception, linked to cocoa, or hedonic evaluation. Capturing the dynamic sensory profile of chocolate samples allowed an investigation into the time points most evident of sensory variation related to the bitterness and sweetness of the taste, allowing insight into whether facial activities also deviated during this time. These data offer evidence to suggest that corrugator was associated with hedonic evaluation during consumption of the samples, with the most liked samples (being those with 70% and 36% cocoa) eliciting similar corrugator activities and less activity than the least liked 85% cocoa content sample; however, there was also evidence to suggest a significant variation in participants' corrugator activity during the period of oral processing when bitterness was most evident in the 85% cocoa sample and sweetness was most evident in the 36% cocoa sample (i.e., the time when bitterness and sweetness were most divergent) Further investigation showed a variation in facial activities elicited during consumption of the 36% cocoa sample based on whether individuals were part of the group who favoured the 85% cocoa sample or the group favouring the 36% cocoa sample. The findings, therefore, suggest facial EMG, specifically over the corrugator, appears to be related to the hedonic evaluation of a complex food product and not the taste itself. Furthermore, being aware of the time points where sensory variations are most apparent between samples can allow for targeted investigation into facial EMG and its ability to distinguish food samples. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.]
Original languageEnglish
Article number114308
Number of pages10
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Early online date29 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2023


  • Plain chocolate
  • Facial electromyography
  • Temporal dominance of sensations (TDS)
  • Oral processing
  • Valence


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