Cornell University

Science & Technology Studies Seminar - Morana Alac, The University of California, San Diego

Monday, May 8, 2017 at 3:30pm to 5:00pm

401 Physical Sciences Building

The Mute Sense and Everyday Work in Olfactory Psychophysics


Experimental studies in psychology of olfactory experience are possible because humans have language. The aim for practitioners of psychophysics is to quantitatively measure sensory function by relying on verbal or other overt responses on the part of their experimental subjects. The notion of communicating olfactory experience is curious since olfaction is commonly perceived as ineffable. In this talk, I take up the question of ineffability by tracing how communication of olfactory experience takes place in everyday work of a psychophysics laboratory. I specifically attend to multisensory, spatial and interactional aspects of the practice.

From that perspective, I situate psychological inquires of olfaction in relation to the accounts in neurogenetics that are increasingly dominating the field. As I re-specify the idea of language inscribed in the postulate of ineffability, I also discuss methodological possibilities for an STS approach to smell studies.


Event Type

Lecture, Seminar


Science and Technology Studies


sts, cas, cashum, cascal, casfeatured



Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Trina Garrison

Contact Phone



Morana Alac

Speaker Affiliation

Department of Communication and Science Studies, UCSD

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