Chapter 6. Odor memory and the special role of associative learning

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The field of odor-memory comprises both memory for odors and the ability for odors to evoke autobiographical recollections. Trygg Engen pioneered the psychological investigation of memory for odors. His observation that odor recognition memory was based on associative learning was pivotal to igniting the study of odor-evoked memory and to developing an understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of olfactory perception and cognition. In this chapter, I review Engen’s contributions to the field of odor memory and research in odor-evoked memory from its origins to the present. Engen’s work on odor memory led him to posit that it may be a unique memory system, and this chapter discusses what has led to the conclusion that odor memory is distinct from other memory systems. In particular, I highlight that the special features of odor-associative learning, from proactive interference to the unique predisposition for change on the basis of experience, are the basis for odor memory’s distinguishing characteristics.


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