Effects of visual and verbal interference tasks on olfactory memory: The role of task complexity

JM Annett, Julian Leslie

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies have demonstrated that visual and verbal suppression tasks interfere with olfactory memory in a manner which is partially consistent with a dual coding interpretation. However, it has been suggested that total task complexity rather than modality specificity of the suppression tasks might account for the observed pattern of results. This study addressed the issue of whether or not the level of difficulty and complexity of suppression tasks could explain the apparent modality effects noted in earlier experiments. A total of 608 participants were each allocated to one of 19 experimental conditions involving interference tasks which varied suppression type (visual or verbal), nature of complexity (single, double or mixed) and level of difficulty (easy, optimal or difficult) and presented with 13 target odours. Either recognition of the odours or free recall of the odour names was tested on one occasion, either within 15 minutes of presentation or one week later. Both recognition and recall performance showed an overall effect for suppression nature, suppression level and time of testing with no effect for suppression type. The results lend only limited support to Paivio's (1986) dual coding theory, but have a number of characteristics which suggest that an adequate account of olfactory memory may be broadly similar to current theories of face and object recognition. All of these phenomena might be dealt with by an appropriately modified version of dual coding theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-460
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue numberPart 3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Aug 1996


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