Understanding methods for internal and external preference mapping and clustering in sensory analysis



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Kansas State University


Preference mapping is a method that provides product development directions for developers to see a whole picture of products, liking and relevant descriptors in a target market. Many statistical methods and commercial statistical software programs offering preference mapping analyses are available to researchers. Because of numerous available options, there are two questions addressed in this research that most scientists must answer before choosing a method of analysis: 1) are the different methods providing the same interpretation, co-ordinate values and object orientation; and 2) which method and program should be used with the data provided? This research used data from paint, milk and fragrance studies, representing complexity from lesser to higher. The techniques used are principal component analysis, multidimensional preference map (MDPREF), modified preference map (PREFMAP), canonical variate analysis, generalized procrustes analysis and partial least square regression utilizing statistical software programs of SAS, Unscrambler, Senstools and XLSTAT. Moreover, the homogeneousness of consumer data were investigated through hierarchical cluster analysis (McQuitty’s similarity analysis, median, single linkage, complete linkage, average linkage, and Ward’s method), partitional algorithm (k-means method), nonparametric method versus four manual clustering groups (strict, strict-liking-only, loose, loose-liking-only segments). The manual clusters were extracted according to the most frequently rated highest for best liked and least liked products on hedonic ratings. Furthermore, impacts of plotting preference maps for individual clusters were explored with and without the use of an overall mean liking vector. Results illustrated various statistical software programs were not similar in their oriented and co-ordinate values, even when using the same preference method. Also, if data were not highly homogenous, interpretation could be different. Most computer cluster analyses did not segment consumers relevant to their preferences and did not yield as homogenous clusters as manual clustering. The interpretation of preference maps created by the highest homogeneous clusters had little improvement when applied to complicated data. Researchers should look at key findings from univariate data in descriptive sensory studies to obtain accurate interpretations and suggestions from the maps, especially for external preference mapping. When researchers make recommendations based on an external map alone for complicated data, preference maps may be overused.



External, Internal preference map, Consumer, Hierarchical, Paritional cluster analysis, Density-based algorithm

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Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Human Nutrition

Major Professor

Edgar Chambers IV