New Horizons in Science

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I don’t feel your pain: Solving the puzzle of subjective measurement

Topic: Perception
Monday, November 4, 2013 -
4:30pm to 5:30pm
Century Ballroom A

Nurses everywhere know the drill: “Tell me how bad your pain is on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the worst pain you’ve ever experienced.” Linda Bartoshuk wouldn’t use such a poor question to make decisions about pain medication. Bartoshuk studies the senses, especially taste, and she made her mark with research revealing why the experience of taste varies across individuals. Now she’s trying to fix the way scientists measure perception. It turns out that you can achieve much more reliable measures by asking a cross-modality question—say, comparing pain intensity to the intensity of a light or sound. She likes to show, rather than tell, so attend this session expecting to experience the difference between good and bad measurement, and to be surprised by what sweet taste really is.


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