“Metallic” Experiences (09-17-21)

Spence, Carvalho, and Howes studied sensory experiences categorized as “metallic.” They report that “Many metallic visual stimuli, especially the so-called precious metals, have long had a rich symbolic meaning for humans. Intriguingly, however, while metallic is used to describe sensations associated with pretty much every sensory modality, the descriptor is normally positively valenced in the case of vision. . . . outside the visual modality, metallic would often appear to be used to describe those sensations that are unfamiliar and unpleasant as much as to refer to any identifiable perceptual quality (or attribute).  . . . the enduring question is raised as to why those chemosensory stimuli that happen to be described as smelling or tasting metallic should always be negatively valenced, given that many other food stimuli that are initially offensive come to be liked. One tentative suggestion here is that at least in certain cases there may be an evolutionarily preserved avoidance response linked to blood.”

Charles Spence, Fabiana Carvalho, and David Howes.  “Metallic: A Bivalent Ambimodal Material Property?” i-Perception, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/20416695211037710