Undergraduate Honors Theses

Date of Award





Rhodri Cusack, Ph.D


Odours are important to many species but their effect on human perception in the context of concurrent auditory and visual stimulation has received little investigation. Here we examined how the experience of viewing audio-visual movie clips changes when accompanied by congruent or incongruent odours. Using an olfactometer to control odourant delivery, thirty-five undergraduate students from Western University were randomly presented 36 different odour-video pairs twice. Following each presentation, participants completed three Likert scales to assess multisensory interaction in terms of engagement, pleasantness, and emotional arousal. Comparison of congruent and incongruent odours to the no odour control condition revealed that incongruent odours had a greater effect than congruent odours on participant ratings, and that this effect acted to negatively influence experience, reducing engagement, pleasantness, and emotional arousal. There was little difference between congruent odours and no odour on ratings of engagement and emotional arousal; however, even congruent odours reduced pleasantness ratings, suggesting all odours used were, to an extent, unpleasant. An interaction suggested that certain movies were more strongly modulated by odour than others. We interpret our results as evidence of crossmodal competition, in which the presence of an odour leads to suppression of the auditory and visual modalities. This was confirmed using functional magnetic resonance imaging in a single participant. Future research should continue to investigate the surprising role odour plays in multisensory interaction.

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Psychology Commons