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Chem Senses. 2004 Mar;29(3):217-24.

A naturalistic analysis of autobiographical memories triggered by olfactory visual and auditory stimuli.

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Department of Psychology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


The emotional and content qualities of autobiographical memories evoked by three memory cue items (campfire, fresh-cut grass, popcorn) presented in olfactory, visual and auditory form were examined using a new repeated measures paradigm. Results revealed that memories recalled by odors were significantly more emotional and evocative than those recalled by the same cue presented visually or auditorily. However, there were no differences in the content features (vividness, specificity) of memories as a function of cue-form. These findings support previous research in both laboratory and naturalistic settings and is the first comparative sensory memory study to include auditory variants of memory cues. The present data contribute to a growing body of evidence indicating that there is a privileged relationship between olfaction and emotion during recollection. Various subject factors such as age, sex and region of residence were also examined and some were found to affect the quality of memories in interaction with the specific memory cue items, indicating that prior experience is a primary influence in autobiographical memory. Questions for future investigation regarding how odor-evoked memories may be different from other memory experiences are suggested.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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