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Grammatical gender affects odor cognition

Speed, L., & Majid, A. (2016). Grammatical gender affects odor cognition. In A. Papafragou, D. Grodner, D. Mirman, & J. Trueswell (Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2016) (pp. 1451-1456). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
Language interacts with olfaction in exceptional ways. Olfaction is believed to be weakly linked with language, as demonstrated by our poor odor naming ability, yet olfaction seems to be particularly susceptible to linguistic descriptions. We tested the boundaries of the influence of language on olfaction by focusing on a non-lexical aspect of language (grammatical gender). We manipulated the grammatical gender of fragrance descriptions to test whether the congruence with fragrance gender would affect the way fragrances were perceived and remembered. Native French and German speakers read descriptions of fragrances containing ingredients with feminine or masculine grammatical gender, and then smelled masculine or feminine fragrances and rated them on a number of dimensions (e.g., pleasantness). Participants then completed an odor recognition test. Fragrances were remembered better when presented with descriptions whose grammatical gender matched the gender of the fragrance. Overall, results suggest grammatical manipulations of odor descriptions can affect odor cognition
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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