Odor-Based Context Dependent Memory

  • Maria LarssonEmail author
  • Artin Arshamian
  • Cornell Kärnekull
Part of the Springer Handbooks book series (SHB)


Even though rarely thought of, all environmental spaces contain odor information. It has been proposed that the preconditions for episodic olfactory memory may not be optimal. For example, environmental olfactory information often goes unnoticed and barely evokes attention in humans and semantic activations that are a prerequisite for optimal episodic memory functioning are typically restricted. Still, it is highly likely that olfactory information will become part of a memory representation that is linked to a specific event. This implies that an event-congruent exposure of an odor carries the potential to trigger all, or parts of, a previous episode. Indeed, available evidence shows that odors may serve as powerful reminders of past experiences. This is demonstrated by studies exploring the nature of odor-evoked autobiographical memories and by controlled experimental paradigms where odors have been embedded in a learning context and later reinstated at retrieval where an increased memory recollection for the target information is often observed. These observations converge on the notion that odor memories are retained over long periods oftime.

In this chapter, we will highlight olfactory cueing of memory and how odors may act as reminders of the recent and distant past.


Context Effect Autobiographical Memory Retroactive Interference Olfactory Information Bornyl Acetate 
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.

autobiographical memory



This work was supported by a grant from the Swedish Research Council (421-2011-1792) and The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences (M14-0375:1) to Maria Larsson. Correspondence concerning this chapter should be addressed to Dr Maria Larsson, Gösta Ekman Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Frescati Hagväg 9A, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Larsson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Artin Arshamian
    • 2
    • 3
  • Cornell Kärnekull
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Department of Clinical NeuroscienceKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Centre for Language Studies, and Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and BehaviourRadboud UniversityNijmegenNetherlands

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