association-list a veritable mint for dunning-kruggerands

Smelling the unsmellable

So reading Karl Schroeder’s blog (one of them, at least), pointed me to Mixing Memory, which got me thinking about cog sci stuff, which in train with reading about Scott Adams getting his voice back got me thinking about sense perception and pheromones. Presuming that human have pheromones, we can’t consciously detect that we’re ‘smelling’ them. I use the scare quotes because although the purported pheromone receptors are in the nose, they are not the same receptors with which humans actually process smells that we can sense. So presumably we sense these things, but have no conscious knowledge of smelling them. It is mooted that they might affect behavior, but that’s not really what I’m interested in. So, assuming that these chemicals arouse some response in the brain that’s unconsciously processed, it seems to me that one could then, in an experimental context, associate these chemicals with other chemicals or stimuli that humans can consciously sense. Presumably, this would then create some sort of conditioned association with the other stimulus. Then, once the association had been conditioned, the observable stimulus could be removed, and the effects of the ‘unpercieveable’ stimulus could be measured (e.g. the subject could press a button when they thought that they ‘smelled’ the pheromone.). Obviously I don’t have the knowledge or experience to design a proper experimental protocol, and certainly could not constructively interpret the results, but I think that it presents a unique sort of window into human sense perception. Essentially, everything else that we have receptors for, we can perceive, although we might not do so all of the time. Pheromones seem to be unique in that we can sense them, but not perceive the sensation. If it could be associated with something that we could sense… I have no idea what it would mean, but it sounds like something interesting to try.

<-- Lisp is annoying Yet another bookshelf update -->