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Smell and tell: Strategically using odours to facilitate communication during witness interviews

Journal article
Authors Mikaela Magnusson
Sara Landström
Published in Nordic Psychology
Volume 69
Issue 4
Pages 248-255
ISSN 1901-2276
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 248-255
Language en
Links www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.108...
Subject categories Applied Psychology

Abstract

Odours are often identified as effective cues to evoke autobiographical memories. The purpose of the present experiment was to examine if olfactory exposure during encoding and retrieval could be strategically used to facilitate recall of information relating to a crime. Ninety-seven undergraduate students volunteered to participate in a 2 (Encoding: vanilla odour vs. no odour) × 2 (Retrieval: vanilla odour vs. no odour) between-subjects design. Amount and accuracy of reported details from a news report concerning a rape case functioned as dependent variables. Analyses indicated no significant effects on the total amount of reported details as a function of odour exposure. However, the participants who smelled vanilla during memory retrieval achieved, independent of previous encoding context, significantly higher accuracy rates. Unexpectedly, utilizing a pleasant vanilla odour during the report phase thus appeared beneficial to enhance the accuracy of a testimony. Methodological limitations with the experimental paradigm and odour distribution techniques will be furthered discussed.

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