As we all know, Penn State has a multitude of options when it comes to food. There are the commons, the many specialty places (i.e. the mix, the leaf, etc.), and many places close to campus. However, being the somewhat lazy college kid that I am, I tend to frequent the places that are closest to me. In my week, I will eat at the mix in Pollock almost every day; it is close to my dorm and is normally quick with the orders I choose. Now, with the second semester starting, I cannot stand the food there anymore. I have eaten my favorite combinations from the menu many times and now, every time I eat it again, it tastes bland and not exciting. I believe that I have developed some sort of sensory adaptation to the food at the mix.
Sensory adaptation is a process by the sensory receptors in the body. As a constant stimulus, like my food, continues to stimulate the sensory receptors, they become less receptive to the stimulus unless a big change happens (like they forget the cheese on my cheesesteak). This is different from habituation cause in sensory adaptation, the receptors themselves become less responsive to the stimulus where as in habituation, the brain does not send those signals to the cortex.
There are many options at the mix to choose from, from the simple chicken strips to the complex Philly cheesesteak. I have tried all of these and even tried putting different things on them or trying to eat them in a different combination, but I continue to eat my meals from there with a dull expression on my face. The food does not taste as exciting or strong anymore. I noticed this at the end of last semester as the food I kept getting from the mix almost every day began to taste more bland and generic.
My friend, and future roommate, Alex has been convincing me to try the Pollock commons. I have been going there almost every day for dinner now and even though they have different items daily, I have begun the same process as the mix. It does not help that I get the same things at the commons, salad, some pizza, and whatever thing they have new that day. I still enjoy going there because the few items that they have that change.
An interesting point to discuss is the fact that sensory adaptation can go away. If the constant stimulus is taken away, the receptors return to normal in regards to that stimulus. Therefore, I recently revisited the mix and ordered a cheesesteak. I was surprised at how much I liked it; it had a lot more flavor than I remembered. It was the exact same thing I would get all last semester but since I hadn’t eaten it for a while, it tasted so much better. I think the most appropriate saying that best sums my experience with eating here at the mix is “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”
Matthew Zackschewski – mgz5020