CCE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Maxine S. Cohen

Committee Member

Sumitra Mukherjee

Committee Member

Gregory Simco


It has long been recognized that there is a major correlation between smell and memory. Until recently, commercialized multi-sensory experiences involving olfaction were limited to non-computerized mediums. Companies that manufacture computerized scent technologies tout the educational benefits of their product, yet prior to this study, there appeared to be no scholarly research in regard to the efficacy of computerized scent producing peripherals in educational environments. The aim of this research was to determine the odor memory enhancement benefits of incorporating olfactory, computerized peripherals into computerized multimedia-learning environments, from both a context dependent and context independent stand point. Specifically, within a multimedia environment, the goal of this study was to ascertain whether or not there would be a significant memory performance difference between subjects who were exposed to scents at both encoding and recall, over subjects who were exposed to scents at encoding only.

There were 61 subjects tested in a carefully designed and controlled experiment. Subjects were 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students from a local private school. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: Administration of a multimedia presentation with computerized smell during the presentation but not during post-testing, administration of a multimedia presentation with computerized smell present during both the presentation and post-testing, or a control group that watched the multimedia presentation without smell and post-tested without smell. Subjects were pre-tested several weeks prior to commencement of the study and then given a post-test approximately 48 hours after viewing the presentation. It was hypothesized that subjects in both experimental conditions would demonstrate an improvement in memory over the control group based on previous studies regarding odor memory. Although there was significant improvement within groups from pre-test to post-test, there was no significant difference found between groups. Based on these results, it would appear that in regard to this study, adding computer-generated scents to multimedia environments provided no measurable value as far as memory is concerned

There are a number of issues of which future studies in the area of computerized olfaction and memory should be mindful. These include the level of immersion, the duration of the presentation, the duration of aromas, the level of subject interactivity, the age of the subjects, the scent delivery method, the type of scent technology used, and the types of questions asked of subjects.

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