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Experts have better memory for items within their domain of expertise. Critically, this does not depend on more efficient use of language. However, this conclusion is based mainly on findings from experts in visual and auditory domains. Olfactory experts constitute an interesting potential counterexample since language has been implicated to be critically involved in odor memory in previous studies. We examined the role language plays in odor recognition memory for wine experts, who typically display better wine odor memory than novices and who are also able to name odors better than lay people. This suggests wine experts' superior recognition memory for odors may be verbally mediated. In 2 experiments, recognition memory for wine odors, wine-related odors, and common odors was tested in wine experts and novices. The use of language was manipulated in Experiment 1 with an overt naming versus no-naming condition, and in Experiment 2, with a verbal interference task inhibiting covert verbalization. Across the two experiments the results showed wine experts have better recognition memory for wines, but not for wine-related or common odors, indicating their memory advantage is expertise specific. Critically, this effect was not verbally mediated, as there was no relationship between experts' ability to name wines and their memory for them. Likewise, directly inhibiting online use of verbalization did not affect memory for wine odors in experts. In sum, once expertise has been acquired, language does not play a causal role in recognition memory for odors. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

Original publication




Journal article


J Exp Psychol Gen

Publication Date





545 - 559


Adult, Female, Humans, Language, Male, Middle Aged, Odorants, Recognition, Psychology, Smell, Speech, Wine