Olfactory imagery: A review

Richard J. Stevenson*, Trevor I. Case

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    112 Citations (Scopus)


    Olfaction's unique cognitive architecture, the apparently inconsistent evidence favoring imagery, and its difficulty of evocation have led some to conclude that there is no capacity for olfactory imagery. Using three streams of evidence, we examine the validity of this claim. First, self-reports of olfactory imagery can resemble those obtained for actual perception. Second, imagining an odor can produce effects similar to actual perception. Third, olfactory perception and memory-based images can interact. A model of olfactory imagery is then presented that utilizes the same systems employed in actual perception, with similar constraints. This model is consistent with olfaction's unique information-processing capacities and can account for previous experimental inconsistencies on the basis of difficulty of evocation, a consequence of unstable access to semantic information. In sum, the evidence presented here is favorable to the existence of an olfactory imagery capacity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)244-264
    Number of pages21
    JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005


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