The hedonic 9-point scale was designed to compare palatability among different food items; however, it has also been used occasionally to compare individuals and groups. Such comparisons can be invalid because scale labels (for example, “like extremely”) can denote systematically different hedonic intensities across some groups. Addressing this problem, the hedonic general Labeled Magnitude Scale (gLMS) frames affective experience in terms of the strongest imaginable liking/disliking of any kind, which can yield valid group comparisons of food palatability provided extreme hedonic experiences are unrelated to food. For each scale, 200 panelists rated affect for remembered food products (including favorite and least favorite foods) and sampled foods; they also sampled taste stimuli (quinine, sucrose, NaCl, citric acid) and rated their intensity. Finally, subjects identified experiences representing the endpoints of the hedonic gLMS. Both scales were similar in their ability to detect within-subject hedonic differences across a range of food experiences, but group comparisons favored the hedonic gLMS. With the 9-point scale, extreme labels were strongly associated with extremes in food affect. In contrast, gLMS data showed that scale extremes referenced nonfood experiences. Perceived taste intensity significantly influenced differences in food liking/disliking (for example, those experiencing the most intense tastes, called supertasters, showed more extreme liking and disliking for their favorite and least favorite foods). Scales like the hedonic gLMS are suitable for across-group comparisons of food palatability.
Meaningful consumer evaluation requires scaling methods able to show individual and group differences in affective response. For studies of food palatability, the traditional 9-point scale obscures hedonic differences associated with oral sensory intensity (for example, supertasters and others), while the general Labeled Magnitude Scale permits their expression.