Sense Of Smell

How Important Is Your Sense Of Smell?

Our sense of smell is vitally important and extremely useful! Our sense of smell is controlled by the Olfactory System which is linked to the oldest known part of our brain, the Limbic System. The Limbic System houses our memories and influences our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and actions. In addition to that, the Limbic System is directly linked to our nervous and hormonal systems.

Our sense of smell helps, heals, protects, nurtures and nourishes us and provides information about our external environment; real, memorized or imagined. Our sense of smell is an information tool that

  • Tells us about things we like and dislike
  • Controls our sense of taste
  • Reminds us of things from our past
  • Attracts lovers, sexual partners and friends
  • Protects, nurtures, nourishes, and heals us
  • Informs us about when we are/someone is unwell
  • Stimulates or sedates various functions of body, mind and emotions
1. Smell and Memory

Scent is the sense closest linked to memory. The sense of smell is more closely linked to memory than any of the other senses. Studies have shown that people can remember a scent with 65% accuracy after 1 year while visual memory sinks to 50% after only a few months. The smells we experience play a crucial role in how we associate with memories and places.

This can often happen spontaneously, with a smell acting as a trigger in recalling a long-forgotten event or experience.

2. Smell and Emotion

The emotions we feel affect the way we relate to places and brands. 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 power, vitality to relaxation.

Smell is extremely important when it comes to the attraction between two people.  Research has shown that our body odor, produced by the genes which make up our immune system, can help us subconsciously choose our partners like pheromones.

Dr. Alan Hirsch from USA has conducted research studies that explore the ways in which smell affects human behavior. He once was quoted stating, “The part of the brain that smells and tastes is part of the emotional brain where our personality lies,” and if that doesn’t get your all intellectually bothered, then be sure to keep reading!

3. Smell and Time

Sense of smell can even affect the way you perceive time. Incorporating the sense of smell in your home or workspace to evoke relaxation or improve focus and creativity.

Dr. Hirsch has also led studies into the way that smells can influence our perception of time. In one of the studies, 20 separate participants were exposed to a baby powder aroma, a coffee aroma, and no aroma at all. While the coffee aroma produced a reduced perception of time, the baby powder aroma produced a longer perception of time. Likewise, pleasurable fragrances have been shown to create “dwell-time” in stores, increasing the likelihood of customers making purchases.

4. Smell and Taste

The smelling sense can also affect our sense of taste! Around 80% of the flavors we taste arrive from what we smell. When your smelling ability is impaired, so is your ability to taste, and some people have even been influenced to change their eating habits because of impaired sense of smell! And adding all that extra salt and seasonings to your food can potentially lead to some serious health problems down the road, so be sure to keep your sense of smell in top notch shape!

“The sensation of flavor is actually a combination of taste and smell,” said Tom Finger, a professor at the University of Colorado-Denver Medical School and chairman of the 2008 International Symposium on Olfaction and Taste, held in San Francisco, USA. “If you hold your nose and start chewing a jelly bean taste is limited, but open your nose midway through chewing and then you suddenly recognize apple or watermelon.”

5. Smell and Healthcare

Creating a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for patients is a challenge for every healthcare facility, be it large or small. For example, lavender fragrances have been used in nursing homes to calm residents and emergency rooms to calm worried visitors. Additionally, hospitals, treatment centers and nursing homes are prone to musky smells and malodors making it imperative that the facilities invest in a scenting solution.

6. Smell and Productivity

Our senses of smell can even affect productivity in office environments. Specific smells have been found to increase alertness which in turn results in higher productivity rates. One study found that when lemon oil was diffused throughout a Japanese office building, productivity among data entry operators increased by 54%. Scents can also be used to ward off mid-afternoon brain fog by revving your concentration levels.

Rachel Herz, an assistant professor of psychology at Brown University in the USA explained that odors can have a dramatic impact on our mood which naturally, can affect how we think and act. Mood has been shown to influence creativity because when we’re in a positive frame of mind, we exhibit higher levels of creatively compared to our peers who are in a bad mood. When people were exposed to an odour they liked, creative problem solving was found to be better than it was when they were exposed to an unpleasant odor.