Although many responses to odorous stimuli are mediated without olfactory information being consciously processed, some olfactory behaviors require conscious information processing. I will here contrast situations in which olfactory information is processed consciously to situations in which it is processed non-consciously. This contrastive analysis reveals that conscious information processing is required when an organism is faced with tasks in which there are many behavioral options available. I therefore propose that it is the evolutionary function of conscious information processing to guide behaviors in situations in which the organism has to choose between many possible responses.
Keller, Andreas, "The evolutionary function of conscious information processing is revealed by its task-dependency in the olfactory system" (2014). CUNY Academic Works.