The human sense of smell may be the least understood of all the senses. Researchers are continually finding new and surprising facts about smell.
The World Smells Different to Each of Us
No two people have the same genetic make-up for the 400 smell receptors in the nose (except identical twins). The world smells different to everybody; we each live in our own private world of smells that is unique to us.
When You Are Sick, You Smell Sick
Your body gives off a detectable “unhealthy” odor when your immune system is highly active, as when fighting off an infection.
White Noise? White Light? There is Now a White Smell
You’ve no doubt heard of white light and white noise. Now scientists have created a smell called “olfactory white”, made by mixing 40 or more odor compounds in equal amounts. The researchers created four different olfactory white blends, none of which shared any common ingredients. Test subjects consistently identified them as the same scent.
You Can Smell How Other People Feel
Dutch researchers showed one group of men a scary movie, and another group a disgusting movie. Then they had female test subjects smell the men’s underarm sweat that had been collected. The women that smelled the “fear sweat” showed fearful facial expressions. The women that smelled the “disgust sweat” reacted with disgusted looks.
Scent Can Affect Your Mood and Your Perceptions
“The thought of pleasant fragrances may be enough to make us a bit more cheerful, but the actual smell can have dramatic effects in improving our mood and sense of well-being.” And: “If a person is clearly outstandingly beautiful, or extremely ugly, fragrance does not affect our judgement. But if the person is just ‘average’, a pleasant fragrance will tip the balance of our evaluation in his or her favour.”
You Started Smelling Things Before You Were Born
Studies showed that pregnant women’s amniotic fluid is full of the smells of the foods the mothers eat. And babies in the womb inhale and exhale more rapidly while the mother is eating.
Smell Can Trigger Memories and Emotions More Quickly Than the Other Senses
The olfactory center of the brain is directly connected the areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory. This could be why a particular scent can bring back a memory or emotion faster and stronger than a visual or verbal cue.