Difficulty in evoking odor images

The role of odor naming

Richard J. Stevenson*, Trevor I. Case, Mehmet Mahmut

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Citations (Scopus)


Many studies report that people have difficulty in evoking odor images. In this article, we explore whether this results from another commonly observed phenomenon, difficulty in naming odors. In Experiment 1, participants both named and attempted to imagine either odors or their common visual referents. More-difficult-to-name odors were reported as being more difficult to evoke as olfactory images, in comparison with the visual condition. In Experiment 2, participants received training prior to forming odor images and naming the same set of odors. As in Experiment 1, more-difficult-to-name odors were harder to imagine, but participants who had learned the odor names during training were significantly better, by their own report, at imagining many of these stimuli, relative to participants who were either exposed to the odors, exposed to their names, or who received no pretraining. In sum, these experiments suggest that odor naming may account for some of the difficulty reported by participants when attempting to evoke odor images; we discuss an associative basis for this effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)578-589
Number of pages12
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007

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