Age-related changes in odor discrimination

Richard J. Stevenson*, Mehmet Mahmut, Nina Sundqvist

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    39 Citations (Scopus)


    Odor naming and recognition memory are poorer in children than in adults. This study explored whether such differences might result from poorer discriminative ability. Experiment 1 used an oddity test of discrimination with familiar odors on 6-year-olds, 11-year-olds, and adults. Six-year-olds were significantly poorer at discrimination relative to 11-year-olds and adults, who did not differ. Experiment 2 used the same procedure but with hard-to-name visual stimuli and compared only 6-year-olds with adults (as with the remaining experiments in this study). There was no difference in performance between these groups. Experiment 3 used the same procedure as Experiment 1 but with less familiar odors. Six-year-olds were significantly poorer at discrimination than adults. In Experiment 4 the researchers controlled for verbal labeling by using an articulatory suppression task, with the same basic procedure as in Experiment 1. Six-year-old performance was the same as for Experiment 1 and significantly poorer than that of adults. Impoverished olfactory discrimination may underpin performance deficits previously observed in children. These all may result from their lesser experience with odors, relative to adults.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)253-260
    Number of pages8
    JournalDevelopmental Psychology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007


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