Bottom-Up Processing? Sounds Tasty!

Although our course has just started, I am learning so much already. Of the topics we have learned, I feel as though I can connect the most to the perception chapter. In particular, I feel that the most relatable concept has been bottom-up processing. Ever since I read about bottom-up processing, I have noticed that this happens to me quite often. The fact that bottom-up processing happens at any time, in any location is what makes the phenomenon most exciting.

Bottom-up processing begins with the most basic of our senses, whether it be sight, smell, or taste. For example, when we see an object, the rod and cone receptors allow us to see the object’s depth and color with our eyes. Our brains’ occipital lobe will then process this visual information into something we can analyze. This is where bottom-up processing can come into play. Sometimes we do not know what an object is right away. That’s why sometimes a plastic bag on the side of the road looks like road kill at first glance; with bottom-up processing, we experience the stimulus first, then analyze it later. However, bottom-up processing is not just associated with sight. Bottom-up processing is also be used to analyze tastes.

A show that utilizes bottom-up processing is, surprisingly, Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay. A popular (and personal favorite) challenge for the chefs on the show is the blind taste challenge. Ramsay’s thought is that chefs need to have a great taste palate in order to make the best food. Two chefs will wear blindfolds and noise-cancelling headphones (so their teams can’t shout the answers to them) while Ramsay feeds them different foods. The chefs will have to use only their sense of taste to tell Ramsay what food they are eating. Sometimes the chefs are particularly good at this challenge. However, it’s shocking how terribly some of the chefs perform during this challenge; of the five foods, some chefs are lucky to guess even one food correctly (I remember specifically, a chef thought a piece of salmon was chicken).

The blind taste challenge is an example of bottom-up processing because it is based on being exposed to a stimulus, then analyzing it later. When the chefs eat the food, there is no outside interference, which is due to the blindfolds and headphones. The chefs’ taste receptors are the only receptors working during the challenge. The gustatory cortex analyzes the taste of the food, and the chefs are then asked which food it is they are tasting. Using bottom-up processing, the chefs are able to taste the food, then determine which food they are eating, using their memory.

Bottom-up processing is used in even the most popular places. Whenever we are exposed to unfamiliar stimuli, we use bottom-up processing to analyze the stimuli. Whenever you enter a kitchen, and someone asks, “Have a bite of this, what does it taste like to you?” you will then use bottom-up processing to determine what that food tastes like.




De Araujo, I. E., & Simon, S. A. (2009). The gustatory cortex and multisensory integration. International Journal of Obesity (2005), 33(Suppl 2), S34–S43. doi:10.1038/ijo.2009.70

Ford, E. C. (2015). Lesson 3: Perception. Personal Collection of Dr. E. Christina Ford, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

1 thought on “Bottom-Up Processing? Sounds Tasty!

  1. akb5391

    As a food lover, this blog caught my eye! It is incredibly interesting to learn about cognitive psychology and connect it to our everyday life activities, such as eating. I too enjoy watching Hell’s Kitchen, however until learning about bottom-up processing, I would never think about the process that has to take place. Excellent job on explaining bottom-up processing, it is very easy to follow and to understand!

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