Excess Noise Knowledge Base

Definitions for those who work in communications and perception

Sensory Analysis

The first thing you teach a communications analyst is sensory analysis. That is the first thing Dr. Malik taught me in 1977. Learning to understand your environment is key, and frankly very rewarding. As experience grows, you start to take note of sensory signals that are barely perceptible, albeit very relevant. I had one such experience while doing a contract for a major retail chain. The contract boiled down to a realization of the sales impact of tiny air currents within a retail environment. No sensory signal is too weak; floor surfaces, low frequency sounds and even humidity can affect the way we think and act.

The very first step in a sensory analysis is to take a sensory inventory.

Sensory analysis generates a sensory report.

This inventory will later serve to rate the environment according to real human sensory limitations and abilities (too loud, too dim, too far, too large, too heavy, too indistinct) using physical measurements (decibels, lumens, meters, kilos).

A communications analyst does not underestimate our senses’ ability to perceive minute details, sometimes subconsciously. They discern shape, size, distance, color, loudness, symmetry, speed, space and the multitude of physical properties that constitute a signal.

Sensory analysis can help architects design interiors that are more pleasant. Packagers use it to evaluate the product’s feel. Car designers use it to evaluate basic comfort and ergonomics. Internal communications and human resources use it to improve working environments.

The easiest way to validate the importance of sensory analysis is to remember how many times you have complained of being too hot or too cold in the past month alone.

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This glossary of definitions is not intended as an academic reference. It is an exercise in thinking on our part. We hope to grow it and welcome any suggestions you may have.