A comparison of the encoding of content and order in olfactory memory and in memory for visually presented verbal materials

Br J Psychol. 1997 Aug:88 ( Pt 3):459-72. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.1997.tb02651.x.


The claim that there is no olfactory short-term memory store, as olfactory serial position (SP) effects are absent (Engen, 1987, 1989; Lawless & Engen, 1977), raises the issue whether memory for sensory qualities is differently organized from memories for more cognitive materials in vision and hearing. Early memory processing in olfaction is re-examined by comparing the results of similarly designed experiments which examine short-term memory for words and consonants, and for odours. Memory for content and memory for order were separately examined in each case. Serial position functions were obtained both for visually presented verbal materials and for odours. The serial position effects for content and order memory in both modalities are sufficiently similar in pattern to support the conclusion that short-term memory processing of olfactory and verbal stimuli is conducted by analogous memory mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Mental Recall*
  • Reading*
  • Semantics
  • Serial Learning
  • Smell*
  • Verbal Learning*