Sniff Your Way to Clarity: The Case of Olfactory Imagery
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This study addressed the effects of blocking spontaneous sniffing during olfactory imagery. A group of subjects (n = 40) who scored high in olfactory focus and imagery ability rated the vividness in olfactory and visual imagery content under conditions of blocked sniffing, blocked vision, and a nonblocked control. The imagery stimuli consisted of 90 common words that could represent either an odor or a visual object. Blocked sniffing was expected to impair olfactory imagery vividness, but since visual imagery entails eye movements, which was not affected by the “blocked vision” manipulation, visual imagery ratings were effectively used as a placebo control. Confirming our hypotheses, the results showed that preventing sniffing resulted in a selectively poorer olfactory but not visual vividness, whereas blocked vision showed no effect on either the visual or olfactory vividness ratings. These observations confirm that sensorimotor activity is an important aspect for the quality of evoked olfactory images.
KeywordsOlfaction Imagery Sniffing Vision Sensorimotor
We thank Stefan Wiens, Margareta Hedner, and Johan Willander for useful comments in the planning of this experiment. This work was supported by the Swedish Research Council to Maria Larsson (421-2005-2113).
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