Human olfactory consciousness and cognition: Its unusual features may not result from unusual functions but from limited neocortical processing resources

Richard J. Stevenson*, Tuki Attuquayefio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Human and animal olfactory perception is shaped both by functional demands and by various environmental constraints seemingly peculiar to chemical stimuli. These demands and constraints may have generated a sensory system that is cognitively distinct from the major senses. In this article we identify these various functional demands and constraints, and examine whether they can be used to account for olfaction's unique cognitive features on a case-by-case basis. We then use this as grounds to argue that specific conscious processes do have functional value, a finding that naturally emerges when a comparative approach to consciousness across the senses is adopted. More generally, we conclude that certain peculiar features of olfactory cognition may owe more to limited neocortical processing resources, than they do to the challenges faced by perceiving chemical stimuli.

Original languageEnglish
Article number819
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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