Odor Sensation and Memory

Odor Sensation and Memory

Odor Sensation and Memory

Odor Sensation and Memory

Synopsis

Our sense of smell has been neglected as a research area. Engen maintains that this neglect belies the critical role that the sense plays in human adaptation to the environment through the monitoring of odors. He perceives odor perception as mainly psychological, unlike the traditional approach which sees the sense largely as an innate mechanism with a direct physiological basis. The research underlying this book is the most current in sensory cognition, reminding the reader of the importance of the sense of smell through the use of many examples--including odor memory, fragrance effects on behavior, odors and sexuality, mother-infant bonding, and air pollution.

Excerpt

When I started research on odor psychophysics most of my colleagues found it neither an interesting nor an important topic. One made the rather candid comment that one had either to be foolish or adventurous to take on a study of a sense for which there was no knowledge about the stimulus (as there presumably was for the more popular senses studied in experimental psychology). Research on the sense of smell has for the most part remained in the tradition of sensory physiology and psychophysics, searching for the stimulus and the receptor and how they interact. The assumption has been that solving this problem will make it possible to explain all of odor perception.

Assuming that odors are like colors, the standard approach to the stimulus problem has been to classify odors on the basis of how people label them verbally. Presumably, chemicals with similar stimulus properties activate certain receptors that, in turn, give rise to similar odor sensations. Odor classification has been attempted with many different methods but it has contributed nothing to the understanding of the sense of smell. Unlike colors . . .

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