Experience dependent changes in odour-viscosity perception

Acta Psychol (Amst). 2011 Jan;136(1):60-6. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2010.10.001. Epub 2010 Oct 28.


One consequence of experiencing flavour - the combination of taste, smell and somatosensation that occurs during ingestion - is that it can result in perceptual changes for the odour component, when this is later smelled alone. One such change is the acquisition of taste-like properties, but whether odours can also acquire somatosensory-like qualities is largely unknown. Participants here were exposed to one odour sampled in a viscous solution, another sampled in a sweet/viscous solution, and a further odour sampled in water. The odour sampled in the sweet/viscous solution was, when later sniffed alone, judged to smell thicker and sweeter, than the other two odours. Similarly, when the sweet/viscous paired odour was added to a viscous solution, the combination was judged as more viscous, than the other two odours - and sweeter when added to a sweet solution. This experiment suggests that odours can acquire tactile-like somatosensory qualities and this may best occur when a taste is present during learning. Recent work indicates that tastes may be superior to somatosensory stimuli alone in promoting flavour binding, a seeming precondition for this type of learning.

MeSH terms

  • Conditioning, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Odorants
  • Sensation*
  • Smell*
  • Taste
  • Taste Perception
  • Viscosity*
  • Young Adult