Fun facts about the sense of smell

  • The sense of smell plays a vital role in our sense of well-being and quality of life, it brings us into harmony with nature, warns us of dangers and sharpens our awareness of other people, places and things. It helps us to respond to those we meet, can influence our mood, how long we stay in a room, who we talk to and who we want to see again.
  • Everyone has their own unique odor-identity or “smell fingerprint" which is determined by many factors including our genes, skin type, diet, medicine, mood state and even the weather.
  • No two people smell the same odor the same way. Furthermore, an individuals sense of smell changes from day to day, depending on their physiological condition, such as physical health, recent medications taken and foods eaten. Personally I can love a scent in May, hate it in June and love it again July.
  • The average human being is able to recognize approximately 10,000 different odors: Our sense of smell is so powerful that when you smell skunk, you are smelling 0.000,000,000,000,071 of an ounce of scent.
  • Our sense of taste is greatly influenced by our sense of smell: Our sense of smell in responsible for about 80% of what we taste. Without our sense of smell, our sense of taste is limited to only five distinct sensations: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and the newly discovered “umami” or savory sensation. All other flavors that we experience come from smell. This is why, when our nose is blocked, as by a cold, most foods seem bland or tasteless. Our sense of smell becomes stronger when we are hungry.
  • Your nose can smell directionally, telling you where an odor originates.
  • Your sense of smell is least acute in the morning; our ability to perceive odors increases as the day wears on.
  • A woman’s sense of smell is keener than a man’s. However, her sensitivity does change over the menstrual cycle. These changes are influenced by estrogen, which increases smell acuity in the first half of a woman’s cycle.
  • It is important to understand that throughout every day and night of our lives we smell a wide variety of odors without being aware of them at all. We go about our activities, breathing in and out, as an infinite number of chemical molecules interact subliminally with our odor receptors. Only when an odor irritates or pleases us or acts as a sudden reminder of the past do we pause to take notice.
  • People recall smells with a 65% accuracy after a year, while the visual recall of photos sinks to about 50% after only three months: Our odor memories frequently have strong emotional qualities and are associated with the good or bad experiences in which they occurred. Olfaction is handled by the same part of the brain (the limbic system) that handles memories and emotions. Therefore, we often find that we can immediately recognize and respond to smells from childhood such as the smell of clean sheets, cookies baking in the oven, the smell of new books or a musty room in Grandma’s house. Very often we cannot put a name to these odors yet they have a strong emotive association even if they cannot be specifically identified.


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