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Chem Senses. 2008 Feb;33(2):193-9. Epub 2007 Dec 10.

Perceptual processing strategy and exposure influence the perception of odor mixtures.

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Universite de Bourgogne, Dijon Cedex, France.


In flavor perception, both experience with the components of odor/taste mixtures and the cognitive strategy used to examine the interactions between the components influence the overall mixture perception. However, the effect of these factors on odor mixtures perception has never been studied. The present study aimed at evaluating whether 1) previous exposure to the odorants included in a mixture or 2) the synthetic or analytic strategy engaged during odorants mixture evaluation determines odor representation. Blending mixtures, in which subjects perceived a unique quality distinct from those of components, were chosen in order to induce a priori synthetic perception. In the first part, we checked whether the chosen mixtures presented blending properties for our subjects. In the second part, 3 groups of participants were either exposed to the odorants contributing to blending mixtures with a "pineapple" or a "red cordial" odor or nonexposed. In a following task, half of each group was assigned to a synthetic or an analytical task. The synthetic task consisted of rating how typical (i.e., representative) of the target odor name (pineapple or red cordial) were the mixtures and each of their components. The analytical task consisted of evaluating these stimuli on several scales labeled with the target odor name and odor descriptors of the components. Previous exposure to mixture components was found to decrease mixture typicality but only for the pineapple blending mixture. Likewise, subjects engaged in an analytical task rated both blending mixtures as less typical than did subjects engaged in a synthetic task. This study supports a conclusion that odor mixtures can be perceived either analytically or synthetically according to the cognitive strategy engaged.

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