Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Smelling' with our eyes: Descriptions affect odor perception

Date:
February 11, 2014
Source:
Université de Montréal
Summary:
An odor is judged differently depending on whether it is accompanied by a positive or negative description when it is smelled. When associated with a pleasant label, we enjoy the odor more than when it is presented with a negative label. To put it another way, we also 'smell' with our eyes!

An odour is judged differently depending on whether it is accompanied by a positive or negative description when it is smelled.
Credit: © daughter / Fotolia

According to Simona Manescu and Johannes Frasnelli of the University of Montreal's Department of Psychology, an odour is judged differently depending on whether it is accompanied by a positive or negative description when it is smelled. When associated with a pleasant label, we enjoy the odour more than when it is presented with a negative label. To put it another way, we also smell with our eyes!

This was demonstrated by researchers in a study recently published in the journal Chemical Senses.

For their study, they recruited 50 participants who were asked to smell the odours of four odorants (essential oil of pine, geraniol, cumin, as well as parmesan cheese). Each odour (administered through a mask) was randomly presented with a positive or negative label displayed on a computer screen. In this way, pine oil was presented either with the label "Pine Needles" or the label "Old Solvent"; geraniol was presented with the label "Fresh Flowers" or "Cheap Perfume"; cumin was presented with the label "Indian Food" or "Dirty Clothes; and finally, parmesan cheese was presented with the label of either the cheese or dried vomit.

The result was that all participants rated the four odours more positively when they were presented with positive labels than when presented with negative labels. Specifically, participants described the odours as pleasant and edible (even those associated with non-food items) when associated with positive labels. Conversely, the same odours were considered unpleasant and inedible when associated with negative labels -- even the food odours. "It shows that odour perception is not objective: it is affected by the cognitive interpretation that occurs when one looks at a label," says Manescu. "Moreover, this is the first time we have been able to influence the edibility perception of an odour, even though the positive and negative labels accompanying the odours showed non-food words," adds Frasnelli.

This finding indicates that the perceived edibility of an odour can be manipulated by a description, and that olfactory perception may be driven by a top-down (or directive) cognitive process.

Reaction times also affected by odours

Various studies have shown that odours affect the reaction times of individuals. Thus, unpleasant odours cause rapid reactions (recoil, for example), while pleasant odours cause slower reactions. In the University of Montreal study, which was run in collaboration with researchers from McGill, reaction times were measured by participants pressing one button as fast as they can when they detected an odor.

However, only the parmesan cheese odour elicited a different reaction time, which was slower when the label was positive. "We were surprised by this result because we expected reaction times to increase when all four odours were associated with positive labels," says Manescu. Similarily, it is known that we react faster to food odours than to other types of odours. In this study, however, cumin -- which was rated positively when presented with the label "Indian food" -- did not result in a slower reaction time, unlike parmesan cheese, which yield slower reaction times and was rated positively when presented with the "parmesan cheese" label. "Although descriptions appear to influence reaction time, this may be modulated by label fit and the edibility attributed to an odour or label," concludes Manescu.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Université de Montréal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Manescu, J. Frasnelli, F. Lepore, J. Djordjevic. Now You Like Me, Now You Don't: Impact of Labels on Odor Perception. Chemical Senses, 2013; 39 (2): 167 DOI: 10.1093/chemse/bjt066

Cite This Page:

Université de Montréal. "'Smelling' with our eyes: Descriptions affect odor perception." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140211084007.htm>.
Université de Montréal. (2014, February 11). 'Smelling' with our eyes: Descriptions affect odor perception. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140211084007.htm
Université de Montréal. "'Smelling' with our eyes: Descriptions affect odor perception." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140211084007.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) — A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) — New England farms are seeing a surge in younger farm hands as the 'buy local' food movement grows across the country. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins