Olfactory illusions: where are they?

Conscious Cogn. 2011 Dec;20(4):1887-98. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2011.05.011. Epub 2011 Jun 8.


It has been suggested that there maybe no olfactory illusions. This manuscript examines this claim and argues that it arises because olfactory illusions are not typically accompanied by an awareness of their illusory nature. To demonstrate that olfactory illusions do occur, the relevant empirical literature is reviewed, by examining instances of where the same stimulus results in different percepts, and of where different stimuli result in the same percept. The final part of the manuscript evaluates the evidence favoring the existence of olfactory illusions, and then examines why they may not typically be accompanied by awareness. Three contributory mechanisms are discussed, relating to difficulty of verification and paucity of olfactory knowledge, the role of change blindness, and restricted access consciousness in this sense.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Awareness
  • Humans
  • Illusions / psychology*
  • Odorants
  • Smell*