Losing the sense of smell does not disrupt processing of odor words.
Speed LJ., Iravani B., Lundström JN., Majid A.
Whether language is grounded in action and perception has been a key question in cognitive science, yet little attention has been given to the sense of smell. We directly test whether smell is necessary for comprehension of odor language, by comparing language processing in a group of participants with no sense of smell (anosmics) to a group of control participants. We found no evidence for a difference in online comprehension of odor and taste language between anosmics and controls using a lexical decision task and a semantic similarity judgment task, suggesting olfaction is not critical to the comprehension of odor language. Contrary to predictions, anosmics were better at remembering odor words, and rated odor and taste words as more positively valenced than control participants. This study finds no detriment to odor language after losing the sense of smell, supporting the proposal that odor language is not grounded in odor perception.