The human brain is a truly magnificent thing. Ever wonder why cracking open a book and smelling its pages tend to make you feel instantly happy and positively convinced that life has just taken a turn for the better? Lucky for you (and for everyone else too!), you’re not the only one and you’re certainly not losing the plot because science now recognises the fact that the human brain plays a rather significant role in the relationship between odours and memories. In fact, not only does the brain log images responsible for establishing long-term memories, but it also has a special “book” for logging odours and for the same purpose.
Books are of course elements that make up the perfect case study when trying to decipher the marvellous and remarkable faculties of the human mind. The smell of a book; and even more so when that book happens to be a book that the holder is actually familiar with; typically would evoke strong memories of visiting the library with a parent or grandparent as a child. And really, does there even exist a more comforting memory than exactly that?
The Relationship Explained
The human mood is affected by certain odours based on the specific memory attached to the odour in question, explains Scientific American. The particular event linked to the odour in question results in a specific “conditioned response associated with the original situation”, elaborates Rachel S. Herz, who is an associate professor of psychology Brown University.
But the recent insight gained on the topic of the odour-mood relationship isn’t at all new. Science long ago already established that there is indeed a definite connection between certain experiences and the memories those experiences tend to elicit; with a sense of smell and the concept described as “odour” counting among the more prominent of those experiences.
My Friend The Nose
Another example that would resonate with a great many people is the smell of pumpkin spice. Eliza Cross, author of the cookbook “Pumpkin it Up!” says that the odour of pumpkin spice, perhaps more than any other food-related scent; and for Canadians especially; calls to mind the “sweet comfort of being home”.
Interesting to note too is that scents make up an important part of our in-born coping mechanisms. A certain (pleasant) scent may cause one to remember a certain event or occurrence as having been better and more positive than what it actually was.
Whoever would have thought that the humble snout would turn out to become one of our greatest allies yet!