Cross-modal correspondence between vision and olfaction: the color of smells

Am J Psychol. 1996 Fall;109(3):335-51.


Cross-modal sensory correspondences between vision and audition have been well described, but those between vision and olfaction have not. In Experiment 1, a method previously used to relate color names, mood names, and line elements was replicated and extended to describe odors by color. Significant color characterizations were found for all 20 test odors. Test-retest correlations showed color-odor correspondences to be as stable as nonodor measures after 2 years. In Experiment 2, new subjects matched Munsell color chips to the test odors. Thirteen odors had characteristic hues; there was significant variation in chroma and value. The selected Munsell hues corresponded to the color names endorsed in Experiment 1. Together, these experiments suggest the existence of robust correspondences between vision and olfaction.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Arousal
  • Attention
  • Color Perception*
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odorants*
  • Psychophysics
  • Smell*