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Motohiro Ito, Jun Kawahara; The effects of aroma on capacity and precision of working memory. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):704. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.10.704.
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Recent studies have suggested mixed effects of aroma on allocation of attention (e.g., Colzato, Sellaro, Paccani, & Hommel, 2014). Ito and Kawahara (2017) reported reduced attentional blink effects under aroma exposure conditions (e.g., rosemary, lavender, and peppermint). However, their study found no correlation between changes in mood states induced by odors and the degree of reduction in the attentional blink effect, thus suggesting that exposure to these aromas directly affected the allocation of attention. Given that working memory plays a critical role in the allocation of attention, the present study focused on working memory capacity and the precision of memory representation, and examined whether exposure to aromas directly improved working memory components without changing internal states. Specifically, participants in Experiment 1 were administered the operation span task (Turner & Engle, 1989) to measure working memory capacity regarding executive and phonological functions, while wearing a rosemary-scented sanitary mask (or an odorless mask as a control condition). The results indicated that working memory capacity significantly increased under the rosemary aroma condition relative to that under the control condition. Experiment 2 measured the precision of the memory representation regarding executive and visuospatial functions. A new group of participants performed a visual working memory recall task in which they stored a set of color stimuli in memory and reported the color of an item by clicking on a color wheel. The results revealed that precision did not vary across odor conditions. Importantly, both experiments indicated that the mood states (e.g., pleasantness and arousal) did not change before or after exposure to either aroma. These results suggest that exposure to rosemary aroma directly improved the phonological function specific to the capacity but not the precision of the memory representation, without a change in mood state.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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