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Memory & Cognition

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 511–518 | Cite as

Proust nose best: Odors are better cues of autobiographical memory

Article

Abstract

The Proust phenomenon is an enduring piece of folk wisdom that asserts that odors are particularly powerful autobiographical memory cues. We provide a more formal exposition of this phenomenon and test it in two experiments, using a novel double-cuing methodology designed to negate less interesting explanations. In both studies, recall of an autobiographical event was initially cued by a verbal label (an odor name) for a fixed period, following which a second, extended recall attempt was cued by the same verbal label, the relevant odor, an irrelevant odor, or a visual cue. The focus of Experiment 1 was participants' ratings of the emotionalquality of their autobiographical memories. In Experiment 2, content analysis was employed to determine thequantity of information in participants' recollections. Results revealed that odor-cued autobiographical memories were reliably different in terms of qualitative ratings and reliably superior in the amount of detail yielded. Moreover, visual cues and incongruent olfactory cues appeared to have a detrimental effect on the amount of detail recalled. These results support

Keywords

Autobiographical Memory Verbal Label Label Condition Event Detail Chemical Sens 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolEngland

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