The capacity of humans to identify odors in mixtures

Physiol Behav. 1989 Nov;46(5):809-14. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(89)90041-3.


One hundred and twenty-three subjects were given the task of identifying the constituents of stimuli consisting of 1-5 odorants. The highest level of identification occurred with single odors and few subjects correctly identified the constituents of mixtures. Since the stimuli were common, dissimilar odors, the results suggest that the capacity of humans to process information about odors perceived simultaneously may be limited, or that odors in mixtures blend to form a new odor with few of the characteristics of the constituent odors.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odorants / analysis*
  • Smell / physiology*