Variability of affective responses to odors: Culture, gender, and olfactory knowledge


Ferdenzi C, Roberts SC, Schirmer A, Delplanque S, Cekic S, Porcherot C, Cayeux I, Sander D & Grandjean D (2013) Variability of affective responses to odors: Culture, gender, and olfactory knowledge. Chemical Senses, 38 (2), pp. 175-186.

Emotion and odor scales (EOS) measuring odor-related affective feelings were recently developed for three different countries (Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Singapore). The first aim of this study was to investigate gender and cultural differences in verbal affective response to odors, measured with EOS and the usual pleasantness scale. To better understand this variability, the second aim was to investigate the link between affective reports and olfactory knowledge (familiarity and identification). Responses of 772 participants smelling 56-59 odors were collected in the three countries. Women rated odors as more intense and identified them better in all countries, but no reliable sex differences were found for verbal affective responses to odors. Disgust-related feelings revealed odor-dependent sex differences, due to sex differences in identification and categorization. Further, increased odor knowledge was related to more positive affects as reported with pleasantness and odor-related feeling evaluations, which can be related to top-down influences on odor representation. These top-down influences were thought, for example, to relate to beliefs about odor properties or to categorization (edible vs. nonedible). Finally, the link between odor knowledge and olfactory affect was generally asymmetrical and significant only for pleasant odors, not for unpleasant ones that seemed to be more resistant to cognitive influences. This study, for the first time using emotional scales that are appropriate to the olfactory domain, brings new insights into the variability of affective responses to odors and its relationship to odor knowledge.

affective feelings; culture; gender; hedonic ratings; odor identification; olfaction

Chemical Senses: Volume 38, Issue 2

Publication date28/02/2013
PublisherOxford University Press