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Smell and Tell: Evoking Past Memories Using a Vanilla Odor

Conference contribution
Authors Mikaela Magnusson
Sara Landström
Emma Roos Af Hjelmsäter
Published in The 10th meeting of the Nordic Network for research on Psychology and Law (NNPL), Oslo, Norway, November 7-8, 2014
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords episodic memory, odor cue, witness recall, accuracy,
Subject categories Applied Psychology

Abstract

Odors have continuously been identified as effective memory cues to evoke past memories. The purpose of the present study was therefore to investigate if olfactory exposure during encoding and retrieval could have memory facilitating effects within a forensic context. A 2 (Encoding: odor vs. no odor) x 2 (Retrieval: odor vs. no odor) between-subjects design was employed with 75 adolescents (Experiment I) and 97 undergraduate students (Experiment II). Amount and accuracy of recalled details from a video segment functioned as dependent variables. Both experiments revealed significantly higher accuracy rates for the participants exposed to a vanilla odor during memory retrieval. However, the facilitating effects emerged independent of previous encoding context. Utilizing a pleasant odor may, thus, be beneficial in an investigative interview setting to enhance accuracy. Smelling a pleasant scent during the interview might, in addition, have other positive effects (e.g. rapport building, mood and behavioral effects) on both the interviewer and the interviewee.

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