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  • Odor valence linearly modulates attractiveness, but not age assessment, of invariant facial features in a memory-based rating task.

Odor valence linearly modulates attractiveness, but not age assessment, of invariant facial features in a memory-based rating task.

PloS one (2014-05-31)
Janina Seubert, Kristen M Gregory, Jessica Chamberland, Jean-Marc Dessirier, Johan N Lundström
ABSTRACT

Scented cosmetic products are used across cultures as a way to favorably influence one's appearance. While crossmodal effects of odor valence on perceived attractiveness of facial features have been demonstrated experimentally, it is unknown whether they represent a phenomenon specific to affective processing. In this experiment, we presented odors in the context of a face battery with systematic feature manipulations during a speeded response task. Modulatory effects of linear increases of odor valence were investigated by juxtaposing subsequent memory-based ratings tasks--one predominantly affective (attractiveness) and a second, cognitive (age). The linear modulation pattern observed for attractiveness was consistent with additive effects of face and odor appraisal. Effects of odor valence on age perception were not linearly modulated and may be the result of cognitive interference. Affective and cognitive processing of faces thus appear to differ in their susceptibility to modulation by odors, likely as a result of privileged access of olfactory stimuli to affective brain networks. These results are critically discussed with respect to potential biases introduced by the preceding speeded response task.

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