Charles Spence

Fellow & Tutor in Experimental Psychology; Professor of Experimental Psychology and Head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory

Charles Spence is Somerville’s Fellow and Tutor in Experimental Psychology, and the head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory.

He is interested in how people perceive the world around them. In particular, how our brains manage to process the information from each of our different senses (such as smell, taste, sight, hearing, and touch) to form the extraordinarily rich multisensory experiences that fill our daily lives. His research focuses on how a better understanding of the human mind will lead to the better design of multisensory foods, products, interfaces, and environments in the future. His work calls for a radical new way of examining and understanding the senses that has major implications for the way in which we design everything from household products to mobile phones, and from the food we eat to the places in which we work and live.

Over the years, Charles has consulted for a number of multinational companies advising on various aspects of multisensory design, packaging, and branding. He has also conducted research on human-computer interaction issues on the Crew Work Station on the European Space Shuttle. Charles and his group are currently working on problems associated with the design of foods that maximally stimulate the senses (together with Heston Blumenthal, chef of The Fat Duck restaurant in Bray). His group also has a very active line of research on the design of auditory, tactile, and multisensory warning signals for drivers and other interface operators (together with Toyota). Charles is also interested in the effect of the indoor environment on mood, well-being, and performance (together with ICI).

Charles has published over 500 articles in top-flight scientific journals over the last 15 years. Charles has been awarded the 10th Experimental Psychology Society Prize, the British Psychology Society: Cognitive Section Award, the Paul Bertelson Award, recognizing him as the young European Cognitive Psychologist of the Year, and, most recently, the prestigious Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, not to mention the 2008 IG Nobel prize for nutrition, for his groundbreaking work on the ‘sonic crisp’!

Publications

Books

Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating. Spence C., 2017

Articles

Explaining seasonal patterns of food consumption
Spence C., (2021), International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, 24

The multisensory design of pharmaceuticals and their packaging
Spence C., (2021), Food Quality and Preference, 91

Constructing healthy food names: On the sound symbolism of healthy food
Motoki K. et al, (2021), Food Quality and Preference, 90

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