A cross-cultural study on odor-elicited life stage-associations

Martin Wendelin, Andrea Bauer, Elisabeth Buchinger, Lukas Danner, Eva Derndorfer, Vu Thi Minh Hang, Helene Hopfer, Marlies Wallner, Srinual Jantathai, Nina Julius, Imke Matullat, Dorota Majchrzak, Barbara Siegmund, Han Seok Seo, Bernhard Spangl, Klaus Duerrschmid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Associative conceptualization plays an important role in how we perceive and interact with our environment. Particularly odor associations can be highly vivid and often long-lasting due to their close connection with our episodic memory and emotions. Based on the findings of a study conducted in Austria in 2017, this work was carried out to investigate odor-elicited life stage-associations (OELSA) in seven nations and to identify potential similarities and differences in conceptualizing odor impressions across these nations. A total of 1144 adults (aged 21–60) from Austria, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Thailand, USA, and Vietnam participated in this study. Nine odors (vanilla, orange, lemon, mint, coconut, basil, rose, anise, and hay) were presented to the participants, and they were asked to answer questions about their spontaneous associations with life stages. The results indicate the existence of OELSA in all investigated nations. For example, vanilla was predominantly assigned to children in all nations, while hay was primarily assigned to elder people. While most of the investigated odors were most frequently associated with adults, some significant differences in OELSA were observed between the different nationalities. For instance, mint was more frequently associated with children by Australian participants compared to participants from all other nations, while coconut was more strongly associated with children by the Vietnamese participants compared to all other participants. The results of this study demonstrate the existence of consistent life stage-related associations elicited by certain odors across different nations and cultures and, at the same time points to differences in life stage-related association with certain odors between the nations. Since this work was not designed to identify the reasons for these differences, we can only make assumptions about the potential underlying causes for these behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104810
JournalFood Quality and Preference
StatePublished - Feb 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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