10 - Influences of Odors on Mood and Affective Cognition  pp. 160-177

Influences of Odors on Mood and Affective Cognition

By Rachel S. Herz

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In this chapter we shall review a wide range of research that shows how odors can influence mood, cognition, and behavior. This review, though not exhaustive, offers a comprehensive overview of the field. As background for this analysis, a discussion of odor-associative learning will first be given. The topics to be covered will then include the effects of odor exposure on (1) mood and specific emotions, (2) attitudes, work efficiency, and perceived health, (3) emotional memory, and (4) emotionally conditioned behavior. In addition to the behavioral evidence, neuroanatomic substantiation for the special relationship between odor and emotional associations will be presented.

Odor-associative Learning

The aim of the following paragraphs is to illustrate that almost all our responses to odors are learned, rather than innate. Evidence to support this idea comes primarily from research with infants and children. Although some work suggests that young children show adult-like preferences for certain odors (Schmidt and Beauchamp, 1988), most research with this age group indicates that children often do not differentiate between odors that adults find either very unpleasant or pleasant, such as butyric acid (rancid butter) versus amyl acetate (banana) (Engen, 1988; Schaal, Soussignan, and Marlier, Chapter 26, this volume), or they may have responses opposite to adult preferences, such as liking the smell of synthetic sweat and feces (Stein, Ottenberg, and Roulet, 1958; Engen, 1982). By age eight, however, most children's hedonic responses to odors mimic those of adults. Odor learning begins prior to birth.

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