How Important Is A Sense of Smell?
When you think of the five senses, your mind might leap first to your sense of sight. Perhaps you’re a “foodie” and usually think first with your stomach, placing taste at the top of your sense priority. However, you might be surprised to discover how much of a role your sense of smell plays in your day-to-day decisions, emotions, and memories.
Why is our sense of smell so important? Read below to discover 5 ways smell influences your everyday life.
1. Smell and Memory
Of all the senses, scent is most closely linked to memory. Studies have shown that people can remember a scent with 65% accuracy after one year while visual memory drops to 50% after only a few months. The smells we experience play a crucial role in how we associate with memories and places. Have you ever come across a whiff of something that instantly takes you back to an old memory? Whether it reminds you of your mother’s cooking or a childhood trip to the ocean, a distinctive scent sinks into your brain and stays there.
2. Smell and Emotion
Did you know that smell has a strong influence on the emotions we feel in our daily lives? The emotions we feel affect the way we relate to places and brands. Dr. Alan Hirsch has conducted countless research studies that explore the ways in which smell affects human behaviour, and found that the part of the brain that smells and tastes is part of the emotional brain where our personality lies.
3. Smell and Time
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 Health Care
Creating a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for patients is a challenge for every healthcare facility, be it large or small. For example, lavender fragrances are often used in nursing homes to calm residents and in emergency rooms to calm worried visitors. Additionally, hospitals, treatment centers and nursing homes are prone to musky smells and odours. A scenting solution could easily do double duty here, putting inhabitants at ease while simultaneously masking bad odours.
5. 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.
6. Smell and taste
Although you may think no difference exists between taste and flavour, they are not exactly the same. Your mouth tastes food, but smell affects flavour. If you cannot smell, your ability to experience the flavour of what you eat may be hindered. While eating, odours from food travel to the nose, and receptor cells at the nasal cavity process the odours. The technical term is retronasal olfaction. Since eating is essential to human survival, this represents yet another important way smell affects our day-to-day lives.
Like all of your senses, your sense of smell plays an important part in your life. If you think you’re experiencing a loss of taste or smell, see your health care provider. There may be ways to help fix the problem. If not, your doctor can help you learn to cope with the changes in smell and taste.