Odor recognition without identification

Anne M. Cleary, Kristen E. Konkel, Jason S. Nomi, David P. McCabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Odors are notoriously difficult to identify, yet an odor can often lead to a sense of recognition, despite an inability to identify it. In the present study, we examined this phenomenon using the recognition-without-identification paradigm. Participants studied either odor names alone or odor names that were accompanied by scratch-and-sniff stickers containing their corresponding scents. At test, the participants were presented with blank scratch-and-sniff stickers, half of which corresponded to items that were studied and half of which did not. The participants attempted to identify each test odor, as well as to rate the likelihood that it corresponded to a studied item. In addition, the participants indicated whether they were in a tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) state for a given odor's name. Odor recognition without identification was found, but only when the participants had actually smelled the test odor at study; it was not found when the participants only studied odor names and were then tested with odors, suggesting that this effect is an episode-specific, perceptually driven phenomenon. Despite this difference, an overall TOT-attribution effect, whereby recognition ratings were higher during TOT states than during non-TOT states, was shown across conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)452-460
Number of pages9
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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