Color affects perceived odor intensity

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1990 May;16(2):391-7. doi: 10.1037//0096-1523.16.2.391.


In Experiment 1, some odorous solutions (e.g., strawberry) were rated as smelling stronger when colored (e.g., red) than when colorless. Experiment 2 showed this effect to be due to a perceptual change rather than a response to experimental demand characteristics. Experiment 3 showed that the color-induced increase in odor intensity is not due to subjects' preexperimental experience with particular color-odor combinations, because the increase occurred with novel ones. We conclude that color induces a weak olfactory percept that combines with odorant-induced percepts. The effect may be due to conditioning or may be the result of residual intersensory neural connections left over from infancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Association Learning*
  • Color Perception*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Smell*
  • Taste*