This study investigated (1) the influence of verbal and conceptual processing on the retrieval and phenomenological evaluation of olfactory evoked memories, and (2) whether the experienced qualities of retrieved information are affected by olfactory exposure per se. Seventy-two older adults were randomized into one of three cue conditions (odor only, name only, or odor name) and asked to relate any autobiographical event for the given cue. The results indicated that semantic knowledge of an odor’s name significantly affects the age distribution of memories such that the memory peak in childhood observed for odors only was attenuated. Also, experiential factors such as pleasantness and feelings of being brought back in time were lower when odors were presented with their respective names. Olfactory evoked memories were associated with a higher emotional arousal that could not be accounted for by the perceptual stimulation alone. Taken together, the overall pattern of findings suggests that retrieval of olfactory evoked information is sensitive to semantic and conceptual processing, and that odor-evoked representations are more emotional than memories triggered by verbal information.
Chu, S., &Downes, J. J. (2000). Long live Proust: The odor-cued autobiographical memory bump.Cognition,75, B41-B50.
Chu, S., &Downes, J. J. (2002). Proust nose best: Odors are better cues of autobiographical memory.Memory & Cognition,30, 511–518.
Conway, M. A., &Haque, S. (1999). Overshadowing the reminiscence bump: Memories of a struggle for independence.Journal of Adult Development,6, 35–44.
Conway, M. A., &Pleydell-Pearce, C. W. (2000). The construction of autobiographical memories in the self-memory system.Psychological Review,107, 261–288.
D’Argembeau, A., Comblain, C., &Van der Linden, M. (2003). Phenomenal characteristics of autobiographical memories for positive, negative, and neutral events.Applied Cognitive Psychology,17, 281–294.
Distel, H., &Hudson, R. (2001). Judgement of odor intensity is influenced by subjects’ knowledge of the odor source.Chemical Senses,26, 247–251.
Ehrlichman, H., &Bastone, L. (1992). Olfaction and emotion. In M. J. Serby & K. L. Chobor (Eds.),Science of olfaction (pp. 410–438). New York: Springer.
Georgia, N., &Neisser, U. (1983). Point of view in personal memories.Cognitive Psychology,15, 467–482.
Haque, S., &Conway, M. A. (2001). Sampling the process of autobiographical memory construction.European Journal of Cognitive Psychology,13, 529–547.
Herz, R. S. (1998). Are odors the best cues to memory? A cross-modal comparison of associative memory stimuli. In C. Murphy (Ed.),Olfaction and taste XII: An international symposium (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 855, pp. 670–674). New York: New York Academy of Sciences.
Herz, R. S. (2000). Verbal coding in olfactory versus non-olfactory cognition.Memory & Cognition,28, 957–964.
Herz, R. S. (2003). The effect of verbal context in olfactory perception.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,132, 595–606.
Herz, R. S. (2004). A naturalistic analysis of autobiographical memories triggered by olfactory visual and auditory stimuli.Chemical Senses,29, 217–224.
Herz, R. S., &Cupchik, G. C. (1995). The emotional distinctiveness of odor-evoked memories.Chemical Senses,20, 517–528.
Herz, R. S., Eliassen, J., Beland S., &Souza, T. (2004). Neuroimaging evidence for the emotional potency of odor-evoked memory.Neuropsychologia,42, 371–378.
Herz, R. S., &Schooler, J. W. (2002). A naturalistic study of autobiographical memories evoked by olfactory and visual cues: Testing the Proustian hypothesis.American Journal of Psychology,115, 21–32.
Herz, R. S., &von Clef, J. (2001). The influence of verbal labeling on the perception of odors: Evidence for olfactory illusions?Perception,30, 381–391.
Larsson, M. (1997) Semantic factors in episodic recognition of common odors in early and late adulthood: A review.Chemical Senses,22, 623–633.
Larsson, M., &Bäckman, L. (1997). Age-related differences in episodic odour recognition: The role of access to specific odour names.Memory,5, 361–378.
Lehrner, J., Marwinski, G., Lehr, S., Johren, P., &Deecke, L. (2005). Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dental office.Physiology & Behavior,86, 92–95.
McIsaac, H. K., &Eich, E. (2002). Vantage point in episodic memory.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,9, 146–150.
Packard, M. G., Cahill, L., &McGaugh, J. L. (1994). Amygdala modulation of hippocampal-dependent and caudate nucleus-dependent memory processes.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,91, 8477–8481.
Rubin, D. C. (1982). On the retention function for autobiographical memory.Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior,21, 21–38.
Rubin, D. C., Groth, E., &Goldsmith, D. J. (1984). Olfactory cuing of autobiographical memory.American Journal of Psychology,97, 493–507.
Rubin, D. C., Rahhal, T. A., &Poon, L. W. (1998). Things learned in early adulthood are remembered best.Memory & Cognition,26, 3–19.
Rubin, D. C., &Schulkind, M. D. (1997). Distribution of important and word-cued autobiographical memories in 20-, 35-, and 70-yearold adults.Psychological Aging,12, 524–535.
Savic, I., Gulyàs, B., Larsson, M., &Roland, P. (2000). Olfactory functions are mediated by parallel and hierarchical processing.Neuron,26, 735–745.
Willander, J., &Larsson, M. (2006). Smell your way back to childhood: Autobiographical odor memory.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,13, 240–244.
This work was supported by Swedish Research Council Grant F0647/2001 to M.L. The authors thank Mats J. Olsson and Fredrik Jönsson for Uppsala lab space. Also, hearty thanks to all of the devoted participants in the Autobiographical Memory Project II.
About this article
Cite this article
Willander, J., Larsson, M. Olfaction and emotion: The case of autobiographical memory. Memory & Cognition 35, 1659–1663 (2007). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03193499
- Vantage Point
- Autobiographical Memory
- Conceptual Processing
- Olfactory Information
- Chemical Sens