Abstract

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate (a) the relationship between identification proficiency for specific odors and chronological age and (b) to determine whether the relationships were related to perceived quality (i.e., judgments of familiarity, intensity, and hedonics) of the odor item. Data from 472 subjects (227 men, 245 women) ranging in age from 18 to 79 years were assessed in a cued identification test comprising 16 odors. The results indicated a reliable age effect in overall odor identification performance. Further analyses indicated that the observed age-related deficit was odorant-specific, with some odors being equally well identified across age cohorts and others showing sensitivity to the process of aging. Additional examination regarding the observed age-differential effects across the different odor types indicated that these may be understood according to the pleasantness/upleasantness associated with the odor. Specifically, odors perceived as unpleasant showed age invariance whereas odors rated as pleasant exhibited age sensitivity.