From an evolutionary standpoint it is one of the most ancient of senses. Our sense of smell plays a major, sometimes unconscious, role in how we perceive and interact with others and the environment were in. Our sense of smell is much more important than we think. It strongly influences human behavior, elicits memories & emotions, and shapes perceptions.
The sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses. Those of us with full olfactory function (sense of smell), may be able to think of smells that evoke particular memories; fresh baked goodies conjuring up recollections of visits to our Grandmother’s house, for example. This most often happens spontaneously, with a smell acting as a trigger in recalling a long-forgotten experience. In addition to being the sense most closely linked to memory, smell is also highly emotive. The perfume industry is built around this connection, with perfumers developing fragrances that seek to convey a vast array of emotions and feelings; from desire to dominance, vigor to relaxation.
It is likely that much of our emotional response to smell is governed by association, something which is borne out by the fact that different people can have completely different perceptions of the same smell. Take perfume fragrances for example; one person may find a particular brand ‘powerful’, ‘aromatic’ and ‘heady’, with another describing it as ‘overpowering’, ‘sickly’ and ‘nauseating’. Despite this, however, there are certain smells that all humans typically find distasteful, largely because they warn us of danger; the smell of smoke, for example, or of rotten food.
Given that our sense of smell clearly plays an important part in our psychological make-up, in addition to it being one of the five ways in which we connect with the world around us, its absence can have a profound impact. For both humans and animals, it is one of the important means by which our environment communicates with us. Embrace the ambiance of scent…