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Here one finds specificity linked to gustatory sensation. This sensory modality is very early and functions even before birth: from the fourth month of pregnancy the fetus can distinguish between different tastes. But it is important to realize that there is a genetically determined differential processing, of pleasure or of displeasure regarding the different families of flavours. Thus, universally, and this can be found in the large majority of animal species, there is an attraction for sweet tastes and rejection of bitterness. To this hedonic rating, inscribed in the body, are added later emotional experiences linked to earlier experiences of food, which are remembered (20).

An extra set is added to this already complex picture: the programming which makes us prefer a sweet flavour predominates in early infancy. It may then be modified by later learning, particularly by cultural rules. But in the absence of learnt rules, initially a sweet flavour is attractive and facilitates the acceptance of new foods.

There is another form of learning then: that of the organoleptic properties of foods as valued by a given culture. These properties, developed over time, form a characteristic series of 'our food' or of 'our cuisine' and make it possible to identify foods as belonging to it or not by differentiating between them. Thus a sweet flavour is different, more or less intense, depending on whether one is dealing with what are termed 'Eastern' or 'European' pastries, for example. The use of pimentos, of characteristic spices, such as cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom and dill, for example, characterizes certain cuisines. Similarly the nature of the fat, its quality and the quantity used play the same role.

Generally speaking these indicators are termed culinary markers or flavour principles (21). It is therefore the learning of these common rules/standards which also fashions personal preferences and which at the same time brings acceptance of new flavours or those initially rejected. Thus one learns to appreciate what is bitter, of which coffee (especially without sugar) is an example. In the same way certain cultures value the consumption of pimentos, although initially the burning sensation they produce is aversive.

This last example illustrates another fundamental concept in the construction of feeding behaviour, that of perception. Perception is a general psychological process. Simplifying, it consists in giving a meaning to the information contributed by the senses. To begin with, in fact, sensory messages are only a simple translation into electrical impulses carried towards the brain of external or internal stimuli of various origins (physical, chemical, etc.). It is their repetition, their association with other signals, the relationship with external conditions and the consequences of these signals, making it possible to give them a meaning, that can be articulated. The best example is that of learning a language: on the level of verbal communication, one is always dealing with physical, sound stimuli. Different combinations of them and the learning of the underlying code enable the meaning to be decoded, and to be understood in short, communication.

Thus the burning sensation added by the pimento does not, from a physiolo

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