Seeing ear to eye

Humans' sense of smell is far less powerful than sight, yet new findings suggest olfaction has a surprisingly significant influence on vision. Image: Flickr/linkurl:tuexperto_com3;http://www.flickr.com/photos/21626156@N02/2509246163/ The findings, published online today (July 1) in Current Biology, show that what you smell can alter your visual perception. Previous studies have linked vision with the senses of hearing and touch, "but it's kind of more surprising that olfaction -- smells -- cou

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef (an unusual nickname for Jennifer) got her master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses. After four years of diving off the Gulf...

View full profile.


Learn about our editorial policies.

Jun 30, 2010
Humans' sense of smell is far less powerful than sight, yet new findings suggest olfaction has a surprisingly significant influence on vision.
Image: Flickr/linkurl:tuexperto_com3;http://www.flickr.com/photos/21626156@N02/2509246163/
The findings, published online today (July 1) in Current Biology, show that what you smell can alter your visual perception. Previous studies have linked vision with the senses of hearing and touch, "but it's kind of more surprising that olfaction -- smells -- could influence vision," said cognitive neuroscientist linkurl:Joel Pearson;http://www.psy.unsw.edu.au/profiles/jpearson.html of the University of New South Wales in Australia. "Smell is considered one of the older senses; it's still quite prehistoric." Because "vision is by far the dominant sense," Pearson said, one might not expect smells to have much of an effect on sight. Humans integrate information from all sensory modalities to form an image of the world, but give different "weights" to each modality "based on the reliability of that information," explained psychologist...
W. Zhou, et al., "Olfaction modulates visual perception in binocular rivalry," Current Biology, 20:1-3, 2010.Correction (posted July 1): This article has been updated from its original version to clarify that presenting smells allowed subjects to see the corresponding objects sooner, not more often. regrets the error.



Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?