Is it Easier to Match a Name to an Odor than Vice Versa?


Previous literature and common belief suggest a cognitive asymmetry in the odor–name relationship such that it would be easier to match a name to an odor than the other way around. We tested whether it is more difficult to smell an odor and then choose a proper name among three alternatives than to read an odor name and then choose a matching odor among three alternatives. Although instances of an asymmetry are suggested, in both directions, depending on which odors or odor names are involved, the overall conclusion is that no general unidirectional asymmetry is evident. This was true for odorants of both high and low familiarity and identifiability. Different cognitive factors in a complete model of odor–name matching are identified and discussed.

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We would like to thank Fredrik Gunne, Microsoft, Sweden, for data simulation and Ana Rita Dias for help with the data collection.

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Correspondence to Mats J. Olsson.

Additional information

This research was supported by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation and the Swedish Research Council.

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Olsson, M.J., Jönsson, F.U. Is it Easier to Match a Name to an Odor than Vice Versa?. Chem. Percept. 1, 184 (2008) doi:10.1007/s12078-008-9024-2

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  • Odor Identification
  • Odor Naming
  • Cued Identification