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Chem Senses. 2004 May;29(4):331-40.

Odor-taste interactions: effects of attentional strategies during exposure.

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  • 1School of Psychology, James Cook University, Cairns QLD 4870, Australia.


Through repeated pairings with a tastant such as sucrose, odors are able to take on the tastant's qualities, e.g. by becoming more sweet smelling. When such odors are subsequently experienced with a sweet tastant in solution, the mixture is often given a higher sweetness rating than the tastant alone. Odor-induced taste enhancement appears to be sensitive to whether an odor-taste combination is viewed analytically as a set of discrete qualities, or synthetically as a flavor. The present research attempted to determine if adoption of these different perceptual approaches during co-exposure with sucrose would influence the extent to which an odor would become sweet smelling and subsequently enhance sweetness intensity. In Experiment 1, subjects received multiple exposures to mixtures of sucrose with low sweetness, low familiarity odors or, as a control, the odors and sucrose solutions separately. Two groups that received mixtures made intensity ratings that promoted either synthesis or analysis of the individual elements in the mixtures. The odors became sweeter smelling irrespective of group. Only adopting a synthetic strategy produced odors that enhanced sweetness in solution. However, these effects were also shown with a 'non-exposed' control odor. This could be accounted for if the single co-exposure with sucrose that all odors received in the pre-test was able to produce sweeter odors. A second experiment confirmed this prediction. Thus, while even a single co-exposure with sucrose is sufficient to produce a sweeter odor, the adoption of a synthetic perceptual strategy during the co-exposure is necessary to produce an odor that will enhance sweetness. These data are consistent with associative leaning accounts of how odors take on taste qualities and also support the interpretation that these effects reflect the central integration of odors and tastes into flavors.

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