The Nose Knowsadmin
According to new research from New York University memories are stronger when the original experiences are accompanied by unpleasant orders.
“These results demonstrate that bad smells are capable of producing memory enhancements in both adolescents and adults, pointing to new ways to study how we learn from and remember positive and negative experiences,” Catherine Hartley, assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and senior paper author said in a statement.
“Because our findings spanned different age groups, this study suggests that aversive odors might be used in the future to examine emotional learning and memory processes across development,” postdoctoral fellow and lead author Alexandra Cohen said.
The researchers originally intended to examine how negative associations influence memory during adolescence. During the study, the researchers administered a Pavlovian learning task to individuals between the ages of 13 and 25. Instead of using the mild electrical shocks that are typically used when administering this type of test they used bad smells because they were working with children.
Participants were shown a series of images belonging to one of two conceptual categories: objects and scenes. When they viewed images from one category, unpleasant smells were circulated through a nasal mask connected to an olfactometer. When viewing images from the other category, unscented air was used. The following day, researchers tested the participants’ memory of the images.
They found both adolescents and adults showed better memory for images associated with the bad smell.
Read the full paper in the journal Learning and Memory.