Reduced discriminability following perceptual learning with odours

Trevor I. Case, Richard J. Stevenson*, Rochelle A. Dempsey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)


In this experiment, the effects of prior experience on odour perception and discrimination were explored. Participants repeatedly sniffed a mixture composed of two odours, AX, as well as smelling two further odours alone, B and Y. After this training phase, participants were asked to rate the similarity of the odours A and X, B and Y, and a non-exposed pair C and Z. A and X were judged as significantly more alike than the other pairs. Exactly the same pattern emerged on a second test, in which participants were asked to select the odd odour out of sets of three. It was consistently harder for participants to pick the odd odour when the stimuli were drawn from the AX pair (eg A versus AX versus AX). Not only do these findings demonstrate that prior experience can affect odour perception, a finding not predicted by theories of odour perception based solely upon the physiochemical properties of odours, they also suggest that experience can act to selectively decrease discriminability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-119
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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