Quality-space theory in olfaction

Front Psychol. 2014 Jan 16;5:1. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00001. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Quality-space theory (QST) explains the nature of the mental qualities distinctive of perceptual states by appeal to their role in perceiving. QST is typically described in terms of the mental qualities that pertain to color. Here we apply QST to the olfactory modalities. Olfaction is in various respects more complex than vision, and so provides a useful test case for QST. To determine whether QST can deal with the challenges olfaction presents, we show how a quality space (QS) could be constructed relying on olfactory perceptible properties and the olfactory mental qualities then defined by appeal to that QS of olfactory perceptible properties. We also consider how to delimit the olfactory QS from other modalities. We further apply QST to the role that experience plays in refining our olfactory discriminative abilities and the occurrence of olfactory mental qualities in non-conscious olfactory states. QST is shown to be fully applicable to and useful for understanding the complex domain of olfaction.

Keywords: consciousness; mental qualities; olfaction; perceptual qualities; phenomenology; quality-space; quality-space theory.