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Taste is one of the most common and fundamental of the senses of animals. It is the direct detection of chemical composition, usually through contact with chemoreceptor cells. Taste is very similar to olfaction (the sense of smell), in which the chemical composition of an organism's ambient medium is detected by chemoreceptors. In a liquid medium, taste is often used to describe this act as well.
In humans, the sense of taste is transduced by taste buds and is conveyed via three of the twelve cranial nerves. The facial nerve (VII) carries taste sensations from the anterior two thirds of the tongue, the glossopharyngeal nerve (IX) carries taste sensations from the posterior one third of the tongue while a branch of the vagus nerve (X) carries some taste sensations from the back of the oral cavity. Information from these cranial nerves is processed by the gustatory system.
As a general rule, taste is a global fuzzy assessment of the interaction of the fundamental taste systems of sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. Location of the stimulus on the tongue is not important, despite the common misperception of a "taste map" of preference for different tastes in specific areas of the tongue . In reality, the separate populations of taste buds sensing each of the basic tastes are distributed across the tongue.
If half of the tongue is blocked from sending information to the brain, people will report that a doubling of psychological perception has occurred for sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.
See also Flavor
Taste in aesthetics
The modern concept of "taste" is a product of the 16th century Italian style called Mannerism, named at the time for the maniera or "manner" in which a work of art was couched. More specifically, the idea of "taste" as a quality that is independent of the style that is simply its vehicle — though the style might be designated a taste, such as "the Antique taste"— was born in the circle of Pope Julius III and first realized at the Villa Giulia built on the edge of Rome in 1551 - 1555.
To the Enlightenment, "taste" was still a universal character, which could be recognized by what pleased any cultured sensibility. With the shift in perspective that Romanticism brought, it began to be thought that, to the contrary, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and could be individually interpreted, with results that might be of equivalent aesthetic value.
The significance of the term develops with the transition from its purely physical nature to being interpreted as an intellectual quality. It begins to be used in a metaphorical sense to refer to certain degrees of competence in relation to understanding of cultural practices. Taste is also closely related to the concept of discrimination, as being based on certain material experiences it can set distinctions between tasteful and tasteless or having a good taste or a bad taste, thus providing categories for social division and producing cultural hierarchy.
Taste in Sociology
The notion of taste in aesthetics is often associated with manners and good habits that are of innate nature. The main critic of this idea is French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, whose main argument is based on the claim that individual tastes and preferences are socially produced. According to Bourdieu, individual tastes are shaped by certain aspects of social practices and position within society. People aspire towards "higher" cultural forms and produce their identities accordingly – they want to be associated with those who are considered to be more developed intellectually and artistically and therefore tend to consume corresponding cultural products. In this sense the notion of taste is closely linked to consumption and consumerism: the viewer or reader consumes various artistic products and then interprets them by the means of criticism that rests upon the idea of taste.
Taste as a metaphor for experience or knowledge
To taste can also be another way of saying one can "experience" or "know" what something is by investigating its characteristics and innate qualities through direct physical interaction, so as to make distinctions. Examples: "I've had a taste of that kind of situation and I would never willingly do it again"; "It left a bad taste in my mind, I know it wasn't a mentally healthy thing for me to do." A good synonym would be "test".
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