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What makes a better smeller?

Majid, A., Speed, L., Croijmans, I., & Arshamian, A. (2017). What makes a better smeller? Perception, 46, 406-430. doi:10.1177/0301006616688224.
Olfaction is often viewed as difficult, yet the empirical evidence suggests a different picture. A closer look shows people around the world differ in their ability to detect, discriminate, and name odors. This gives rise to the question of what influences our ability to smell. Instead of focusing on olfactory deficiencies, this review presents a positive perspective by focusing on factors that make someone a better smeller. We consider three driving forces in improving olfactory ability: one’s biological makeup, one’s experience, and the environment. For each factor, we consider aspects proposed to improve odor perception and critically examine the evidence; as well as introducing lesser discussed areas. In terms of biology, there are cases of neurodiversity, such as olfactory synesthesia, that serve to enhance olfactory ability. Our lifetime experience, be it typical development or unique training experience, can also modify the trajectory of olfaction. Finally, our odor environment, in terms of ambient odor or culinary traditions, can influence odor perception too. Rather than highlighting the weaknesses of olfaction, we emphasize routes to harnessing our olfactory potential.
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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.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.

 

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