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The sense of smell and memory and what Psychology tells us…

August 23, 2021 4 min read

The sense of smell and memory and what Psychology tells us…

The last time you walked to the local coffee shop, did your nose lead the way? Did a wave of nostalgia hit as you inhaled the scent of freshly-brewed coffee? Or could that just have been the latte you bought on the walk back from work? Does someone immediately come to mind when you smell a specific fragrance? From childhood, smells bring back memories of holidays and home, of celebrations and of those ordinary moments like trying to do some homework. But why is that so? Could our sense of smell and memory have some sort of direct link?

By looking at and understanding how the five senses work and which part of the brain works with each sense, you can understand the type of memory that is directly influenced. Out of all five senses, let’s explore why the sense of smell and memory is the one that triumphs…

The Science Behind Our Sense Of Smell And Memory 

The piriform cortex within the brain is a collection of neurons located behind the olfactory bulb that is responsible for identifying smells. When the nose detects a smell, olfactory neurons send an impulse to the brain along the olfactory nerve. It is the olfactory bulb in the brain that receives this signal and processes it, passing information about the smell to its closely connected areas, collectively known as the limbic system. A limbic system in the brain is a collection of brain structures that are believed to be responsible for controlling levels of mood, memory, behaviour, and emotion. This better explains why the role of our sense of smell and memory affects our moods and emotions.

These scents that we smell affect our olfactory memory. This helps us better understand why the smell we pick up from walking into a particular home, past a random stranger, or even the smell of a beach allows us to recall time-specific and people-specific memories. 

Is Smell The Most Nostalgic Sense?

Our sense of smell and memory are closely linked, probably more so than any other sense.  This is why individuals with full olfactory function may be able to recall memories triggered by certain smells. Whether certain flowers that remind you of a specific anniversary, homecooked meals that remind you of Sunday lunches, not to mention baked goods that evoke memories of baking with grandma for the first time, all these scents are attached to some kind of nostalgia. Whether you’ve experienced loss and find it difficult to move on, certain scents bring back those memories as if they were in real-time. These scents are embedded in your memory and these memories are reawakened through these scents. This is the power of a smell.

Additionally, smells are highly emotive. There is nothing subtle about scents and fragrances; they convey feelings and emotions of desire to power, relaxation to vitality. A certain brand may be described as 'overpowering', 'aromatic' and 'heady' by one person while it may be described as 'sickly', 'overpowering', and 'overpowering' by another. Despite the contrast, people can find most smells unpleasant where certain smells alert us to danger such as the smell of smoke or rotten food.

How the scent of your home influences a person’s sense of smell and memory

Is it possible for your sense of smell and memory to be compromised?

People's inability to identify smells might be explained by the close connections between emotions and memories, rather than to those parts of the brain that determine words. Each individual is bound to have some experience of a form of trauma or negative connotation to a scent which makes this a trigger to the part of the brain that registers a memory. Research has found that people are unable to identify more than half of the odours of items they use every day. However, a selection of options with an odour and a visual clue can help them make a more informed decision. 

The big question is…Does the sense of smell and memory make difference when it comes to your home?

100% YES! In many home visits, I’m sure you've experienced either an overwhelming smell of freshly prepared meals, an intense smell of freshly cleaned floors, or something TOTALLY unexpected.

Let’s get into the opposite for a second…If you had to think about walking into someone’s home and it smelt completely off-putting, how long did you intend to stay? What eternal memory did you keep when it comes to associating those people with the memory of those scents? It doesn’t seem like anything positive, right? While scents and smells are important, there’s nothing like walking into a freshly cleaned and beautifully smelling home where first impressions are made and last.

On the converse, the last thing someone wants to remember is those horrible smells and odours that do take your breath away. From pet odour, to garbage leakage, moisture, etc. No one remembers a home that carries no freshness or fragrance; nor do they enjoy the experience.

While your sense of smell may be most dominant when it comes to memory recollections, it doesn't mean that other senses are less important for your nostalgic bliss. This is important to remember when it comes to hospitality and the upkeep of your home. Although olfactory cues can evoke nostalgia, people's imaginations can be fired up by either the wrong or right scent. As their brains start making pictures, the goal is to always make long-lasting first impressions. The scents around your home can create pictures that invite certain emotions. What emotions, moods, and memories do you want your home to evoke?

Thanks to Zoflora, you don’t have to worry or be on guard about getting this right. It not only is a concentrated disinfectant, it removes smells and odours, and is freshly scented coming in an array of scents. Saying goodbye to foul-smelling odours as well as bacteria, viruses, and germs have never been easier. Zoflora not only helps you take hospitality to the next level, but it also makes you and your home unforgettable. Purchase yours today!