Repeated exposure can change the perceptual and hedonic features of flavor. Associative learning during which a flavor’s odor component is affected by co-exposure with taste is thought to be central in this process. However, changes can also arise due to exposure to the odor in itself. The aim of this study was to dissociate effects of associative learning from effects of exposure without taste by repeatedly presenting one odor together with sucrose and a second odor alone. Sixty individuals attended two testing sessions separated by a 5-day Exposure Phase during which the stimuli were presented as flavorants in chewing gums that were chewed three times daily. Ratings of odor sweetness, odor pleasantness, odor intensity enhancement by taste, and odor referral to the mouth were collected at both sessions. Consistent with the notion that food preferences are modulated by exposure, odor pleasantness increased between the sessions independently of whether the odor (basil or orange flower) had been presented with or without sucrose. However, we found no evidence of associative learning in any of the tasks. In addition, exploratory equivalence tests suggested that these effects were either absent or insignificant in magnitude. Taken together, our results suggest that the hypothesized effects of associative learning are either smaller than previously thought or highly dependent on the experimental setting. Future studies are needed to evaluate the relative support for these explanations and, if experimental conditions can be identified that reliably produce such effects, to identify factors that regulate the formation of new odor–taste associations.

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