The acquisition of taste properties by odors

Richard J. Stevenson, John Prescott*, Robert A. Boakes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

177 Citations (Scopus)


Certain odors are routinely described as smelling sweet. This phenomenon may result from the co-occurrence of such odors and tastes outside the laboratory. Experiment 1 tested this possibility by pairing a selected odor with sucrose and another with citric acid in a masked design, using 24-h spaced sessions, preceded and followed by ratings of the odors' taste attributes when sniffed and when rated with tastes in solution. Following conditioning, the odor paired with sucrose smelled sweeter and with citric acid, sourer. In Experiment 2, contingency awareness was examined using a recognition measure, in an otherwise similar design. Again, odors smelled sweeter and sourer postconditioning. Contingency aware and unaware subjects did not differ in performance. Experiment 3 examined an exposure account of these changes, using a similar paradigm to Experiment 1, but with no exposures to sucrose or citric acid. No changes in odor taste attributes were observed, Overall, these findings demonstrate that associative learning, irrespective of awareness, has an important role in the acquisition of odor-taste qualities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-455
Number of pages23
JournalLearning and Motivation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


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