Odor exposure and recall of a virtual reality crime scene: A preliminary study

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Agnieszka Sorokowska - , University of Wrocław (Author)
  • Maciej Trzciński - , University of Wrocław (Author)
  • Rafał Cieśla - , University of Wrocław (Author)
  • Sylwia Adrianna Skubisz-Ślusarczyk - , University of Wrocław (Author)
  • Iwona Zieniewicz - , University of Wrocław (Author)
  • Thomas Hummel - , Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery (Author)
  • Piotr Sorokowski - , University of Wrocław (Author)


Environmental context reinstatement has a particular value for recall of information in forensic interviews. Since odors are valuable memory cues and can act as memory triggers, in our preliminary study we explored whether odor exposure can help people recall details of a crime scene. The study comprised 58 women and 15 men aged 22–35 who immersed in a carefully controlled environment closely resembling an actual crime setting, i.e., a virtual reality crime. Participants were exposed to an odor at encoding, recall, both or neither of these instances, yielding a total of 4 experimental groups that further completed a memory recall task. The crime scene content recall was tested in a free recall and a forced-response test immediately after seeing the crime scene and one month later. We found no significant effects of odor exposure on the free or the cued recall of the crime scene. The memory scores correlated neither with the self-assessed olfactory/visual sensitivity of the subjects, nor with the perceived odor pleasantness. These preliminary findings suggest that introduction of a vanilla odor while encoding and recalling a crime scene does not aid witness recall accuracy.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-541
Number of pages5
JournalScience & justice : journal of the Forensic Science Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

External IDs

PubMed 37453786
ORCID /0000-0001-9713-0183/work/146645753


ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • Crime scene recall, Criminal justice, Eyewitness interviews, Forensic interviews, Cues, Humans, Mental Recall/physiology, Crime, Male, Female, Odorants, Virtual Reality