Chapter 7. Knowing what we smell

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In this chapter, we review the nature of, and performance levels for, odor source naming, and the different proposed explanations to the generally low odor naming performance observed in experimental studies. We differentiate between odor naming and odor identification and show that although humans can rarely name more than 50% of common household items, this is not an odor naming problem, but rather reflects the difficulty we have in identifying odors. We investigate two broad accounts of odor identification failures in terms of perceptual and associative processes necessary for correct identification. Additionally, we discuss the feeling of knowing and tip of the nose experience commonly associated with identification failures. This type of metacognition provides us with odor knowledge in the absence of odor identification. In light of these phenomena, we discuss the importance of odor identification for olfactory functioning.


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