Implicit and Explicit Measurements of Affective Responses to Food Odors

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One of the main functions of olfaction is to activate approach/avoidance behavior, toward or away from people, foods, or other odor sources. These behaviors are partly automated and therefore poorly accessible via introspection. Explicit tests need therefore be complemented by implicit tests to provide additional insights into the underlying processes of these behaviors. Affective responses to seven food odors plus one control nonodor were assessed in 28 female participants (18–30 years) using explicit tests [pleasantness, intensity, and non-verbal emotional ratings (PrEmo)] as well as implicit tests that reflect dynamic expressive emotional reactions (facial expressions) as well as behavioral-preparation responses (autonomic nervous system responses: heart rate, skin conductance, and skin temperature). Explicit tests showed significant differences in pleasantness (P < 0.05), and all PrEmo emotions (P < 0.05) except shame. Explicit emotional responses were summarized by valence (explaining 83% of the responses variance) and arousal (14%) as principal components. Early implicit facial and ANS responses (after 1s) seem to reflect the odors’ arousal, whereas later ANS responses (after 3–4s) reflected the odors’ valence. The results suggest that explicit measures primarily reflect the odors’ valence, as result of from relatively long (conscious) processing, which may be less relevant for odor acceptance in the real world where fast and automated processes based on arousal may play a larger role.

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