Music and odor in harmony: A case of music-odor synaesthesia

Speed, L., & Majid, A. (2018). Music and odor in harmony: A case of music-odor synaesthesia. In C. Kalish, M. Rau, J. Zhu, & T. T. Rogers (Eds.), Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2018) (pp. 2527-2532). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
We report an individual with music-odor synaesthesia who experiences automatic and vivid odor sensations when she hears music. S’s odor associations were recorded on two days, and compared with those of two control participants. Overall, S produced longer descriptions, and her associations were of multiple odors at once, in comparison to controls who typically reported a single odor. Although odor associations were qualitatively different between S and controls, ratings of the consistency of their descriptions did not differ. This demonstrates that crossmodal associations between music and odor exist in non-synaesthetes too. We also found that S is better at discriminating between odors than control participants, and is more likely to experience emotion, memories and evaluations triggered by odors, demonstrating the broader impact of her synaesthesia.
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