Improving our learning abilities is important for numerous aspects of our life. Several studies found beneficial effects of presenting cues (odor or sounds) during learning and during sleep for learning performance. A recent study applying a real-life paradigm indicated that additional odor cueing during a Final Test can further increase this cueing effect. The present online study builds on these findings with the following questions: (1) Can we replicate beneficial memory effects of additional odor cueing during tests? (2) How many odor cueing learning units and odor cueing nights of sleep maximize the learning success? (3) Can odor cueing also reduce the amount of forgetting over time?
160 Participants learned 40 German Japanese word pairs in four groups with separate experimental conditions over three days. group N received no odor during the whole study. Group LS received odor cueing during learning and sleep, group LT during learning and testing and group LST during learning, sleep and testing. Participants performed intermediate tests after each learning unit plus three Final Tests 1, 7 and 28 days after the last learning unit.
Results: (1) Group LST learned 8.5% more vocabulary words than the other groups overall. (2) This odor cueing effect increased across the three days of cued learning. (3) We found no clear evidence for effects of odor cueing on the forgetting dynamics.
Our findings support the notion of a beneficial effect of odor cueing. They further suggest to use at least 3 days and nights of odor cueing. Overall, this study indicates that there is an easy, efficient and economical way to enhance memory performance in daily life.