The color of odors

Brain Lang. 2001 Nov;79(2):309-20. doi: 10.1006/brln.2001.2493.


The interaction between the vision of colors and odor determination is investigated through lexical analysis of experts' wine tasting comments. The analysis shows that the odors of a wine are, for the most part, represented by objects that have the color of the wine. The assumption of the existence of a perceptual illusion between odor and color is confirmed by a psychophysical experiment. A white wine artificially colored red with an odorless dye was olfactory described as a red wine by a panel of 54 tasters. Hence, because of the visual information, the tasters discounted the olfactory information. Together with recent psychophysical and neuroimaging data, our results suggest that the above perceptual illusion occurs during the verbalization phase of odor determination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Color Perception*
  • Humans
  • Illusions*
  • Odorants*
  • Psychophysics
  • Smell / physiology
  • Visual Perception
  • Vocabulary