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Jazz and TV Smells: Sniffin’ Sticks, and Tones

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!

Research about the smells of jazz and TV
compiled by Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Improbable Research staff

The Smell of Jazz
”The Smell of Jazz: Crossmodal Correspondences Between Music, Odor, and Emotion,” Carmel A. Levitan, Sara A. Charney, Karen B. Schloss, and Stephen E. Palmer, CogSci 2015 Proceedings, pp. 1326-1331. The authors, at Occidental College, Brown University, and the University of California, Berkeley, report:

The present study investigates the emotion mediation hypothesis for correspondences between odor and music, testing whether the strength of odor-music matches for particular odors and musical selections can be predicted by the similarity of the emotional associations with the odors and music....

Odor Stimuli: We used 15 Sniffin’ Stick pens imported from Germany. These included both pleasant and unpleasant familiar odors...

We found that perceived matches were higher when the emotional responses were similar and that a model including emotional dimensions captured a significant amount of the variance of match scores.

The Imagined Smells of TV
“Smell Illusions and Suggestion: Reports of Smells Contingent on Tones Played on Television and Radio,” Michael O’Mahony, Chemical Senses, vol. 3, no. 2, 1978, pp. 183-189. The author, at the University of California, Davis, reports:

During a television show about the chemical senses, viewers were played a tone which, they were told, was of the same frequency as the frequency of vibration of molecules of an odorous substance. They were told that the tone would cause them to experience a smell that was a pleasant country smell. Viewers responded with many reports of smells including “hay” and “grass” as well as reports of attacks of hay fever and sneezing. The experiment was repeated on the radio with two separate tones and a period of silence explained as an ultra high frequency tone which was not consciously audible but still having an effect. “Smell” responses were obtained for all three tones. Several explanations were discussed, including three possible suggestion mechanisms: criterion change by suggestion, signal generation by suggestion and suggestion of verbal framework.


This article is republished with permission from the March-April 2016 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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