The accessibility of semantic knowledge for odours that can and cannot be named

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Abstract

When faces, objects, or voices are encountered, naming lapses can occur, but this does not preclude knowing other specific semantic information about the nameless thing. In the experiments reported here, we examined whether this is also the case for odours, using a procedure based upon the Pyramid and Palm Trees test. In Experiment 1, participants were presented with a target odour, then two pictures, and had to pick the picture semantically associated with the target. In Experiment 2, participants were presented with a target odour, then two test odours, and again had to pick the semantically associated test stimulus. In each experiment, other tests followed, including a parallel verbal-based test, an odour-naming test, and various ratings. Neither experiment found any evidence of specific semantic knowledge about a target odour, unless the target odour name (Experiment 1) or all of the odour names (Experiment 2) were known. Additional tests suggested that these effects were independent of odour familiarity and similarity. We suggest that the absence of specific semantic information in the absence of a name may reflect poor connectivity between olfactory perceptual and semantic memory systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1414-1431
Number of pages18
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Volume66
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013

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