Differential context effects between sweet tastes and smells

Richard J. Stevenson*, Mehmet Mahmut

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)


"Sweet" smells and tastes are perceptually similar, and physiological data indicate some commonality of central processing. However, sweet tastes and sweet smells do not provide interchangeable contexts in psycho-physical experiments. The same sweet tastes are perceived as less intense when stronger sweet tastes are present, and they are perceived as more intense when weaker sweet tastes are present, as with sweet smells. However, complementary sets of sweet tastes and smells (e.g., weak sweet tastes, strong sweet smells) do not eliminate these differential context effects (DCEs). The present experiments examined, first, whether DCEs between sweet tastes and smells arise because of differences between odors and tastes in the way that sweetness scales with intensity as concentration rises, and, second, whether DCEs may be smaller for sweet tastes and smells, when contrasted with sweet tastes and nonsweet smells. The findings were clear: DCEs were consistently present, suggesting they are independent of perceptual similarity. These results imply that DCEs are probably not psychological in origin or centrally based; rather, they may have a subcortical locus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2304-2313
Number of pages10
JournalAttention, Perception and Psychophysics
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010

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