Odors cue memory for odor-associated words

Lorenzo Stafford, S. Salehi, Bridget Waller

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The ability of odors to cue vivid and emotionally intense memories is well-known. However, the majority of research has focused on the extent to which odors can act as environmental cues to memory, where odors are presented alongside the stimuli to be remembered, rather than the extent to which pre-existing associations between odor and odor-related stimuli might influence memory. In this study, participants (n = 45 females in each experiment) were presented with words (two groups of odor-associated words and one neutral) on a computer screen and randomly assigned to one of three conditions where they recalled the words while inhaling from a bottle either rosemary, jasmine, or no odor (experiment 1) and peppermint, bergamot, or no odor (experiment 2). In experiment 2, participants then completed a lexical decision task (LDT). Experiment 1 revealed that, for those in the rosemary group, significantly more rosemary versus jasmine and neutral words were recalled. Experiment 2 replicated this effect for peppermint, though no odor-congruent effects were found in the LDT. These findings demonstrate that certain odors are able to cue memory for odor-associated words. Results are discussed in relation to connected odor association research and possible theoretical frameworks to account for these findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-69
Number of pages11
JournalChemosensory Perception
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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