Michael Alex Lee, Juliana Mitchell, Wyatt Kaiser



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Olfaction, or the sense of smell, and emotion have long been recognized as closely related. Previous research has found that odors are not only capable of influencing our mood, but can also affect the way we evaluate different types stimuli that are associated with them. However, no study to date has examined how odors can influence the way we evaluate visual stimuli, nor considered the relationship between odor’s ability to influence mood as well as affective evaluation. This study’s goal was to address this gap in the literature. For this study, we had participants complete questionnaires about their demographic information, current mood, and the affective impact of odor for them. Then, we had them view a series of images and rate them for positive valence, negative valence, and intensity. Once they viewed all the images, participants then relocated to another room that was prepared with a pleasant odor, unpleasant odor, or no odor. Participants then completed another questionnaire regarding their mood following odor exposure, and then viewed and rated another set of images, which contained both new images and the same images they viewed earlier. We hypothesized that participant’s reported mood state would change after being exposed to a pleasant or unpleasant odor, that their ratings of positive and negative valence for the images would change after being exposed to a pleasant or unpleasant odor, and that the change in image ratings is mediated by their change in mood due to the odor. While most hypotheses were not supported, we found unexpected changes in mood and ratings over time between odor exposure conditions. This study provides additional nuance to our understanding of the relationship between olfactory and affective processing, as well as creates opportunities for building our understanding of the relationship between the two domains in the future.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Julie Walsh Messinger

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences

Smelling How to Feel: The Role of Ambient Odor and Olfaction in Affective Experience and Evaluation