Have you ever had the sensation that a smell you can’t identify is somehow familiar? Never fear, the answer is in your memory.
Your sense of smell is highly emotive and more linked to memory than any of your other senses. A smell can trigger a memory, often spontaneously. Specific smells may also help recall a long forgotten event or experience. When you smell cookies or a fresh baked pie most people think of a parent or grandparent. New smells are linked to an event, person, thing or moment.
When we first meet someone our nose detects pheromones. This lets us know if we are attracted to someone or not. This is done on a subconscious level. We will also begin to associate other smells with these people at time goes on.
Your sense of smell can also keep you safe. If you smell smoke you know you are in danger or your dinner is a little overcooked. When you are out camping, if you smell a skunk you are more likely to walk away from the smell than toward it.
Your sense of smell is part of your Limbic System. The Limbic System controls mood, memory, behavior and emotion. It also contains the Olfactory Bulb. The Olfactory Bulb is connected to the Amygdala, which helps control emotions, and the Hippocampus, which helps us with associative learning. If someone has lost their sense of smell this can lead to depression or point to a more serious condition such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
The sense of smell also plays a role in your sense of taste. Don’t believe me? Think about when you are sick and cannot breathe through your nose. Now the food you ate then tasted different than when you could breathe right? This is because 75% of taste is produced from smell. The 5 areas of the tongue produce the remaining 25%: salty, bitter, sweet, sour and umami. Any tastes beyond these 5 areas are called flavour. This occurs when your sense of smell and taste combine.
To experiment with your sense of taste and smell you just need a blindfold, a partner and a clothespin.
- Have your partner blindfold you and place clothespin on your nose.
- Have your partner feed you various foods. (Make sure you do not know what foods your partner has chosen.)
- Have your partner write down your responses.
- When finished repeat steps 2 and 3 without the clothespin.
- Having all of your answers written down review your results with your partner.
* For best results use 15-20 different types of food. When repeating the food without the clothespin, go in a different order.