Associations to odors: interference, mnemonics, and verbal labeling

J Exp Psychol Hum Learn. 1977 Jan;3(1):52-9.


In a paired-associate paradigm using odors as stimuli and pictures for multiple-choice responses, the first of two associations to an odor was retained far better than the second over a 2-week period. The persistence of first-learned associations may be responsible for the long lasting nature of odor memories. Subjects reported constructing mediational schemes for mnemonic devices to link the odors and pictures. Latencies for a task of naming odors indicated that although naming odors is difficult, labels could be generated sufficiently fast that they could be employed as mediators in the paired-associate task. A third task investigated the phenomenon of knowing that an odor was familiar but being unable to name it. Subjects in this tip-of-the-nose state were questioned about the odor quality and the name of the odor and were given hints about the name. These subjects were found to have information available about the odor quality but none for the name as found in the tip-of-the-tongue state. However, as in the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon, hints given to the subjects in the tip-of-the-nose state often led to the correct name.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cues
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Female
  • Form Perception
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Odorants*
  • Paired-Associate Learning
  • Reaction Time
  • Time Factors
  • Verbal Learning*
  • Visual Perception