Cognition and olfaction: a review

Psychol Bull. 1989 May;105(3):352-60. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.105.3.352.


Examines research in cognitive psychology, which has in the past paid little attention to the olfactory modality. But there is now a significant body of literature on the role of the olfactory system in memory and cognition. Human beings possess an excellent ability to detect and discriminate odors, but they typically have great difficulty in identifying particular odorants. This results partly from the use of an improverished and idiosyncratic language to describe olfactory experiences, which are normally encoded either in a rudimentary sensory form or as part of a complex but highly specific biographical episode. Consequently, linguistic processes play only a very limited role in olfactory processing, whereas hedonic factors seem to be of considerable importance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Memory*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Odorants
  • Smell*