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PSY3043 : Making Sense of scents: investigating olfactory perception

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Caroline Allen
  • Owning School: Psychology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


The aim of this module is to take an understudied sensory system and place it at the centre of human and animal experience by examining it from a range of perspectives across the lifespan. The module will cover the relevance of olfaction to survival and the lived experience by covering biological, evolutionary, social, psychological and clinical research and perspectives on olfaction in humans and non-human animals.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module will comprehensively cover the sense of smell, including biological, evolutionary, social and psychological factors related to the sense. A comparative approach will be taken throughout the module.

Main topics covered will include:
-Chemical, biological, and neuroanatomical basis of olfaction
-Olfaction in non-human animals
-The history of olfaction research in humans
-The role of olfaction in human social communication
-Survival and olfaction
-Reproduction and olfaction
-The human pheromone debate
-Methods for studying olfaction in humans and animals
-Artificial fragrances – the psychology/biology underpinning their design and use
-The impact of olfaction on mental health and wellbeing
-Olfaction and physical health

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00Interactive lectures
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00Completing the research proposal
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading122:0024:00Reading recommended for lectures/seminars
Guided Independent StudySkills practice12:002:00Evaluating a peer research proposal
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops121:0012:00Group discussions/debates of topics/papers. providing feedback for peers. Olfaction practicals.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures: These will provide the information necessary for knowledge outcomes 1-4, and will be augmented by assigned reading set for students. They also provide opportunities for students to seek clarification and ask question about topics being covered.

Workshops: These sessions will allow the students the opportunity to build on the 4 knowledge outcomes through deeper discussions/debates of specific topics, all of which will help students to design their research proposals. Additionally, these sessions will allow students to develop the skills listed above. Students will gain practical skills related to olfactory methodologies in practical sessions (skill 3). Time will also be devoted to the practical aspects of designing research proposals and generating hypotheses (skill 1) which is of direct benefit to the module assessment. Finally, students will be given time in these sessions to evaluate the work of a peer and receive feedback on their own work (skills 2 and 4, students are allocated guided independent study time to prepare for this -2 hours). All of the skills developed during the workshops are directly related to the design of a research proposal, and thus will guide the students through completing this assessment.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research proposal2A100Students will develop a novel research proposal related to olfaction (2500 words)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise2MStudents will have opportunity to critique & evaluate a draft version of a peers research proposal and receive feedback on their own
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The research proposal will be used to assess the students’ knowledge and theoretical understanding of the course material, their academic writing skills, and their ability to critically evaluate the literature. It also allows them to demonstrate their ability to synthesise information from the literature and generate novel hypotheses, and combine this with their knowledge of olfactory research methods – all of which will be necessary for designing a research proposal.

The formative peer assessment of a draft version of their research proposal will allow the students to practice their evaluative skills and will also present them with the opportunity to gain useful feedback on their own proposals. (Word count 500 - 1000 words).

FMS Schools offering Semester One modules available as ‘Study Abroad’ will, where required, provide an alternative assessment time for examinations that take place after the Christmas vacation. Coursework with submissions dates after the Christmas vacation will either be submitted at an earlier date or at the same time remotely.

The form of assessment will not vary from the original

Reading Lists