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The Link Between Scent And Memory

Posted by: Michaela W, on: Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Erwin Creed for the House of Creed

Have you ever caught a whiff of a smell and instantly remembered a positive or negative experience? It’s an incredible phenomenon that has more of an impact on you then you’d think. Believe it or not, associations with smell actually impact daily life. No kidding! The University of Liverpool have found that smells can manipulate many aspects of human behaviour and cognitive function, especially memory.

Occasion Association

People make smells significant when the particular scent becomes associated with an occasion or person. As you encounter a smell, you form nerve connections that cause your brain to link the smell to the emotion you’re experiencing at the time. Scientists say it is one of our most incredible abilities as human beings and that none of the other senses have such deep access to our memories. Smell is by far the strongest. Think about it. You may smell someone wearing the same perfume as your favourite school teacher and be transported back to a happy times you experienced with your friends or the teacher in class. Or perhaps every time you smell a musky perfume, you’re reminded of a terrible experience with a strict professor in your university days – something you’d rather not remember. You associate smells with positive and negative experiences, most of the time without you even realising it until you smell that scent again.

Give Your Brain A Boost

If our brains have the ability to link a smell to an event or person, then we can harness this ability to perform better when it matters. This makes it very possible to use your sense of smell to prompt your memory when you’re writing an exam or making an important presentation. If you breathed in a certain scent while you were studying or creating your presentation, your ability to recall that information is improved by inhaling that same smell during the exam or presentation. The simple solution, in that case, is to wear a particular cologne or perfume when you’re prepping and to wear that same scent when it’s go-time. Scent association in this instance has the ability to boost your mental performance and unlock memory by 20% - this is according to a recent study that examined a group of students. Those who wore the same perfume while revising and writing, scored higher results than their counterparts who did not. The same study found that orange and lavender fragrances boost recall more than most other scents.

The opposite can be true should the revision session or preparations not run smoothly. If the person can’t figure out an equation or struggles to string together a presentation, that same smell can trigger stress and fear and cause the person to perform poorly. Scents that tend to trigger “failure” are incense and bergamot – so steer clear if you’re trying to get focused!

The Love Connection

Fragrances can also be used to remind you of a loved one if you’re spending periods of time apart. Smelling an item of their clothing or their cologne/perfume can really bring the person to life, more so than a photograph can. Smell is also extremely important when it comes to attraction between partners. Your body odour is believed to play a role in choosing a partner, so remember that next time you spritz on some perfume! The act of sharing a kiss in itself is thought to have developed from potential partners smelling and tasting one another to decide if they are a good match – that’s how they “swiped right” before the time of Tinder!

Health and Happiness

Smell can also be used to aid good health through inducing feelings of calm and serenity. The simplest way to use perfume to induce relaxation is to pick a signature scent and pair it with a yoga or meditation session. After doing this a few times, every time you catch a whiff of the perfume, you will instantly feel a sense of calm. As previously discussed, smell can be extremely emotive and the perfume industry have tapped into this for their advantage. Perfumers have developed fragrances that convey various emotions including desire, power, relaxation and well-being. A spritz of a perfume developed with a certain emotion in mind can put you in the right mood for the right occasion.

Put It Into Practice

Flowerbomb EDP by Viktor and Rolf
Flowerbomb Eau de Parfum by Viktor and Rolf

Jasmine has been found to aid sleep by soothing the mind. Spritz on a little Jasmine-based perfume before bed to clock some serious Z’s. We love Flowerbomb by Viktor and Rolf

Eau D'Orange Verte by Hermes
Eau D'Orange Verte by Hermes

If you need to feel awake and invigorated, opt for a perfume that has notes of peppermint (so it’s not like you’re a walking breath-mint). Eau d'Orange Verte has a subtle mint undertone for a fresh, energising scent. It’s great if you’re doing a presentation or writing an examine to boost your alertness and concentration.

Private Blend Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford
Private Blend Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford

It has been proven that vanilla-based scents can aid weight loss by tricking the pleasure-centre of the brain into thinking it’s getting sweet treats. On an empty stomach, it can actually incite sweet cravings so spray on after a healthy brekkie to keep the cravings at bay. It’s like wearing a block of chocolate with zero calories (bonus!). Try Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille.

Author: Michaela W

Michaela is a blogger from South Africa passionate about fashion, beauty and healthy living. She works part-time in the fashion industry and spends the rest of her time freelancing, allowing her to follow her two greatest passions simultaneously.

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