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Differential sex effects in olfactory functioning: The role of verbal processing

  • Christina Öberg (a1) (a2) (a3), Maria Larsson (a3) (a4) and Lars Bäckman (a1) (a2) (a3)

We investigated sex difference across a number of olfactory tasks. Thirty-six men and 35 women ranging in age from 19 to 36 years were assessed in 6 different tasks: absolute sensitivity for n-butanol, intensity discrimination, quality discrimination, episodic recognition memory for familiar and unfamiliar odors, and odor identification. No sex differences were observed in the tasks tapping primarily sensory acuity (i.e., odor sensitivity, intensity discrimination, and quality discrimination) or in episodic memory for unfamiliar odors. By contrast, women outperformed men in the tasks involving verbal processing (i.e., memory for familiar odors and odor identification). Interestingly, controlling for odor naming ability resulted in that the observed sex difference in episodic odor memory for familiar odors disappeared. This outcome suggests that women's superiority in episodic odor memory is largely mediated by their higher proficiency in odor identification.

Corresponding author
Christina Öberg, Section of Psychology, Stockholm Gerontology Research Center, Box 6401, S-113 82 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:
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Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society
  • ISSN: 1355-6177
  • EISSN: 1469-7661
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-international-neuropsychological-society
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