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The mind’s nose and autobiographical odor memory
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
2008 (English)In: Chemosensory Perception, ISSN 1936-5802, Vol. 1, no 3, 210-215 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study investigated the potential impact of odor imagery on the retrieval of autobiographical events. Specifically, the main aims were to examine the influence of imagined odor cues on (a) the age distribution of autobiographical memories and (b) the experiential qualities of the retrieved events. Sixty-four older adults were randomized into one of two cue conditions (word or odor imagery) and were asked to relate any autobiographical event for the given cue. The results indicated that events evoked by odor imagery were older than memories associated with words. Specifically, most memories evoked by olfactory imagery originated from the first decade of life (<10 years), whereas word-evoked memories peaked in young adulthood (11–20 years). Also, memories evoked by odor imagery entailed higher proportions of sensory experiences as compared to the word-cue condition. However, other phenomenological qualities of the retrieved events did not differ between the two conditions. Overall, this pattern of findings suggests that olfactory imagery influences temporal but not experiential qualities of retrieved autobiographical memory information.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 1, no 3, 210-215 p.
Keyword [en]
Autobiographical Memory, Episodic Memory, Imagery, Olfaction, Retrieval, Odor Imagery, Emotion, Reminiscence Bump
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-24553DOI: 10.1007/s12078-008-9026-0OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-24553DiVA: diva2:197779
Available from: 2007-11-15 Created: 2007-11-09 Last updated: 2016-06-22Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Autobiographical odor memory
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Autobiographical odor memory
2007 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the present thesis, three empirical studies investigate autobiographical odor memory with regard to: (a) whole life-span age distributions, (b) phenomenological experience, (c) semantic processing, and (d) odor imagery. Study I explored potential influences of cue type (words, pictures, odors) on the retrieval of autobiographical memories. The results indicated that odor-evoked events were older than memories evoked by words and pictures. The bump for olfactory evoked information peaked in the first decade of life (<10 years of age), whereas the bump of the word- and picture-evoked age distributions peaked in the second decade (i.e., 11-20 years of age). Also, olfactory evoked events were associated with stronger feelings of being brought back in time. Study II investigated the influence of verbal processing on the retrieval of autobiographical olfactory information. The results revealed that semantic knowledge (i.e., the odor name) affected both the age distribution and phenomenological experience. Also, olfactory memories were associated with a higher emotional arousal. Study III addressed the influences of olfactory imagery on the age distribution and phenomenological experiences. The results showed that events evoked by odor imagery were older than memories evoked by words. No differences in phenomenological experiences were found between the two cue conditions. Based on these findings, it is suggested that (a) memories evoked by olfactory information are older than memories evoked by verbal and visual information, (b) odor memories are more emotional and associated with stronger feelings of being brought back in time, (c) knowledge of an odor’s name produces a shift from a more perceptually to a more conceptually driven retrieval, and that (d) imagined odor cues mimic the age distribution of events evoked by real odors. Overall, the results suggest that memories triggered by the olfactory sensory system are different from memories evoked by verbal or visual information.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Psykologiska institutionen, 2007. 80 p.
Keyword
Autobiographical odor memory, autobiographical memory, olfaction, olfactory imagery, episodic memory, age distribution, phenomenological experience, emotion
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-7172 (URN)978-91-7155-494-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2007-12-07, David Magnussonsalen (U31), hus 8, Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 10:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2007-11-15 Created: 2007-11-09Bibliographically approved

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