Your average day may begin with the smell of coffee and end with that of soap. In between are odours ranging from your boss’s (overbearing) perfume and the office cleaning agent, to that of the loo and gym. But it’s not just about registering a smell and moving on, it’s also about triggering memory and association, and our ability to make changes.
The olfactory system is closely related to the limbic system (the part of the brain that governs instinct and mood). A paper published in the International Journal of Research in Ayurveda and Pharmacy, says that “human attitude varies towards olfaction,” and that “it may have positive or negative effects on emotions and memory.”
Decoded, this means that the smell of vanilla can take you back to a childhood of happy baking memories, or it could trigger nausea from the time someone dunked a whole bottle into a cake as a prank. Worse, if the cook who smelt of vanilla was particularly nasty to you, you will probably dislike the smell altogether well into adulthood.