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Children’s episodic memory: The effect of odour exposure during encoding and retrieval

Conference contribution
Authors Emma Roos Af Hjelmsäter
Sara Landström
Maria Larsson
Pär-Anders Granhag
Published in Nordic Network for Research on Psychology and Law (NNPL), 2013-10-26, Århus, Dk
Publication year 2013
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords odour, episodic memory
Subject categories Applied Psychology


Introduction and aim. To help child witnesses recall relevant and detailed information, one may use sensory memory cues (e.g., as in the Cognitive Interview). However, in police interviews visual and auditory cues are often dominant, while potential cues from odour and taste are often ignored. To explore the efficacy of using odour as a memory cue, we set out to examine how odour interacts with memory. Methods. Children (N = 141, age 9-11) participated in a magic show where they either experienced, or did not experience, a vanilla odour. One week or six months later, they were interviewed about their memory of the magic show. During the interview they either experienced, or did not experience, the same vanilla odour. Results. Preliminary analyses showed that children who had been exposed to the odour during the magic show recalled less information, and with lower accuracy, compared to children who had not been exposed. There was no effect on memory of odour (re-)exposure during the interview. However, children who had been exposed to the odour during the interview rated their memory as being less emotional compared to children who had not been exposed. Conclusions. The preliminary results indicate that re-exposing children to an odour may not be useful in order to enhance memory. Moreover, a prominent odour during an event seems to impair memory performance. Exposing children to an odour during the interview may lead to their subjective emotionality being reduced, which is important as statements expressed with less emotion are often considered less reliable.

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