Undergraduate Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 4-2020




Dr. Jody Culham


Current knowledge of human object perception relies heavily on studies using images as proxies for real objects. However, real objects are fundamentally different from images. For example, real objects have multisensory properties while images do not. Given that research shows that people look longer at real objects than images of objects, known as the real object preference, and that people look longer at objects when they are presented along with an associated smell, the present pilot study aimed to assess whether visual-olfactory associations contribute to the real-object preference. The present study used a within-subjects design including four participants. Participants viewed a real object alongside an identical image of the object while presented with either a congruent odor (e.g., viewed orange and smelled orange), incongruent odor (e.g., viewed orange and smelled coffee), or neutral odor (e.g., viewed orange and smelled odorless air). Participants’ eyes were tracked using an eye tracker as they viewed the objects, and the percent looking time at the real object was analyzed. Preliminary results suggest that participants looked more at the real object than the image in the neutral odor condition, replicating the real-object preference. Further, the results demonstrated a trend in which congruent odors maintained the real-object preference while incongruent odors decreased the real-object preference. Prior to future data collection, researchers should focus on refining the current experimental design.