The fish is bad: negative food odors elicit faster and more accurate reactions than other odors

S. Boesveldt, J. Frasnelli, A. Gordon, J.N. Lundstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Dissociating between ‘good’ or ‘bad’ odors is arguable of crucial value for human survival, since unpleasant odors often signal danger. Therefore, negative odors demand a faster response in order to quickly avoid or move away from negative situations. We know from other sensory systems that this effect is most evident for stimuli from ecologically-relevant categories. In the olfactory system the classification of odors into the food or non-food category is of eminent importance. We therefore aimed to explore the link between odor processing speed and accuracy and odor edibility and valence by assessing response time and detection accuracy. We observed that reaction time and detection accuracy are influenced by both pleasantness and edibility. Specifically, we showed that an unpleasant food odor is detected faster and more accurately than odors of other categories. These results suggest that the olfactory system reacts faster and more accurately to ecologically-relevant stimuli that signal a potential danger
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-317
JournalBiological Psychology
Volume84
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords

  • unpleasant odor
  • autonomic parameters
  • responses
  • fear
  • pleasant
  • stimuli
  • emotion
  • humans
  • perception
  • attention

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