Following the Scent: Applying the Ecological Valence Theory to Odor Preferences

Karen B. SchlossBrown University
Carolyn S. GoldbergerOccidental College
Stephen E. PalmerUniversity of California, Berkeley
Carmel A. LevitanOccidental College

Abstract

Preference is the primary dimension underlying odor perception. Therefore, to understand odor perception it is necessary to understand odor preferences. We propose that preference for an odor is determined by preferences for all objects and/or entities associated with that odor (extending Palmer and Schloss’s (2010) Ecological Valence Theory of color preferences to odor preferences). Odor preferences were strongly predicted by preference for all associates with the odors (e.g., people liked the apple odor which was associated with mostly positive things like apples, soap, and candy and disliked the fish odor associated with mostly negative things like dead fish, trash, and vomit. Our model performed significantly better than one based on preference for the object the odors were designed to smell like (e.g., predicting preference for the apple odor based on preference for apples). These results suggest that odor preferences are a summary statistic, coding the valence of previous odor-based experiences.

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Following the Scent: Applying the Ecological Valence Theory to Odor Preferences (297 KB)



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