A Time-Based Account of the Perception of Odor Objects and Valences

Jonas K. Olofsson, Nicholas E. Bowman, Katherine Khatibi, Jay A. Gottfried

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Is human odor perception guided by memory or emotion? Object-centered accounts predict that recognition of unique odor qualities precedes valence decoding. Valence-centered accounts predict the opposite: that stimulus-driven valence responses precede and guide identification. In a speeded response time study, participants smelled paired odors, presented sequentially, and indicated whether the second odor in each pair belonged to the same category as the first (object evaluation task) or whether the second odor was more pleasant than the first (valence evaluation task). Object evaluation was faster and more accurate than valence evaluation. In a complementary experiment, participants performed an identification task, in which they indicated whether an odor matched the previously presented word label. Responses were quicker for odors preceded by semantically matching, rather than nonmatching, word labels, but results showed no evidence of interference from valence on nonmatching trials. These results are in accordance with object-centered accounts of odor perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1224-1232
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • emotions
  • naming
  • object recognition
  • olfactory perception
  • response time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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