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Do we mentally simulate olfactory information? We investigated mental simulation of odors and sounds in two experiments. Participants retained a word while they smelled an odor or heard a sound, then rated odor/sound intensity and recalled the word. Later odor/sound recognition was also tested, and pleasantness and familiarity judgments were collected. Word recall was slower when the sound and sound-word mismatched (e.g., bee sound with the word typhoon). Sound recognition was higher when sounds were paired with a match or near-match word (e.g., bee sound with bee or buzzer). This indicates sound-words are mentally simulated. However, using the same paradigm no memory effects were observed for odor. Instead it appears odor-words only affect lexical-semantic representations, demonstrated by higher ratings of odor intensity and pleasantness when an odor was paired with a match or near-match word (e.g., peach odor with peach or mango). These results suggest fundamental differences in how odor and sound-words are represented.

Original publication




Journal article


Cognitive Science

Publication Date





1146 - 1178