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Using Smell to Enhance Memory

based on 33 ratings
Author: Megan Doyle

Grade Level: 6th to 8th; Type: Social Science

Objective:

This experiment will investigate whether smell can be used to enhance test subjects’ memories.

Research Questions:

  • Can smell be used to enhance memory?
  • Does smell affect the recall abilities of males and females differently?

In this experiment, students will try to “link” certain memories with specific scents. They will then evaluate if memory recall is improved when the specific smells are reintroduced at a later time.

Materials:

  • Test subjects
  • 20 images of everyday objects
  • 20 note cards
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • 20 distinct smells
  • Box
  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Notebook for recording results

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Create flashcards of 20 everyday objects.
  2. Gather 20 different smells. You can use candles, perfume, cologne, food, etc… Assign a smell to each flashcard.
  3. Recruit approximately 20 test subjects to participate in your experiment (10 adult males and 10 adult females).
  4. Show test subjects each flashcard. While showing them the image, ask them to smell the scent that you have assigned to that image for approximately 15 seconds while studying the picture. Place the item that is being smelled in a box so that the test subject cannot see it.
  5. After 2 hours, ask each test subject to list the items they saw on the flashcards.
  6. Evaluate the lists. Identify the items that are missing from each list.
  7. Ask each test subject to smell the scent corresponding to each item missing from the list. Allow them 1 minute after each smell to try to recall and write down the item that they are missing.
  8. Record how often smell is able to help test subjects remember the missing items.
  9. Analyze your results. What percentage of the time did smell help a test subject recall an image? Did the smells help female test subjects more than male test subjects (or vice versa)?

Terms/Concepts: smell and memory

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