Michael Alexander Lee



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Olfaction, or the sense of smell, is a ubiquitous element of the human experience. Odors are all around us and can arouse a wide range of feelings or even stir vivid memories. While studies have found that odor can influence people’s evaluation of various types of stimuli, no study has shown how odor can influence how people rate the emotional content of visual stimuli, nor has it been shown how it might affect our ability to recall such stimuli. Odor’s ability to affect how we evaluate and recall emotionally-charged stimuli could carry deep implications for how olfaction impacts our daily lives. This study seeks to examine how odors that carry different hedonic values affect how participants rate and recall emotionally-charged visual stimuli. Prior to the study, participants will complete an online survey where they rate the emotional valence of a collection of images from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS), which will be evenly divided between positive, negative, and neutral valence. The initial portion of experimental session will take place in a room in which either a pleasant odor, an unpleasant odor, or no odor will be present. Participants will be presented with a subset of images from the survey and asked to rate them again for valence and arousal. Immediately afterwards, participants will complete a recognition task where they will be presented with a larger collection of images and asked if they recall seeing each image earlier in the session. Finally, participants will be moved to another room without odor, complete roughly 30 minutes of distraction tasks, then complete a delayed recognition task. This task will follow the same procedure as the earlier recognition task, with the additional component of rating each image for arousal and valence. This project is expected to be completed in spring of next year.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Julie Walsh Messinger

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project

Smelling How to Feel: Does Ambient Odor Affect How We Evaluate and Recall Emotional Stimuli?