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Sensation & Perception 5e Chapter 14 Overview

Olfaction

 

 

Can you identify the famous olfactory organ pictured above? (*answer below)

The stimuli for olfaction are small, airborne molecules, which might be pumped into the air from a perfume bottle or released from a solid substance such as a food. When these molecules waft up into your nasal cavity, they make contact with receptor cells that very quickly send information about the substance you are smelling to the brain.

Olfaction is a paradoxical sense in some ways. We can have powerful emotional reactions to smells, and a smell from your past may instantly trigger a vivid flashback memory of an event or setting. On the other hand, we have great difficulty naming even very familiar smells, and when multiple molecules are mixed together, the resulting smell is usually perceived quite differently than the smells of any of the component molecules alone.

The activities for this chapter allow you to review Olfactory Anatomy (Activity 14.1) (which is probably the simplest of any of the senses), explore the processes of Odor Adaptation and Habituation (Activity 14.2), and walk through an experiment investigating different types of Sensory Memory Cues (Activity 14.3).

Two of the essays cover advanced topics in olfaction: Olfactory Lateralization (Essay 14.2) and Verbal–Olfactory Interactions (Essay 14.3). A third essay points you to a website describing Smell-O-Vision (Essay 14.1), a misguided attempt from the 1960s to integrate smells into movie theaters.

 

* Steve Martin.