Our sense of smell is one of the most mysterious of the five senses. For instance, if you’ve ever walked into a room and experienced a pang of emotion as you thought you smelled your deceased mother in the room, because someone else was wearing her signature perfume, you’re aware of smell’s power to trigger an emotional memory.
In A Natural History of the Senses, the science historian Diane Ackerman wrote that: “A smell can be overwhelmingly nostalgic because it triggers powerful images and emotions before we have time to edit them…When we give perfume to someone, we give them liquid memory. Kipling was right: ‘Smells are surer than sights and sounds to make your heart-strings crack.’” Here are 10 more fascinating things you did not know about your sense of smell.
1. A Woman’s Nose Best Women have a stronger sense of smell than men. Much stronger. Even more in the first half of her menstrual cycle, reaching its peak when she is most fertile.
2. Your Smell is Unique Similar to a fingerprint, everyone has a unique odor identity. No two people smell the same way except identical twins.
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3. Babies Learn to Breastfeed Through Smell Scientist say the bumps on a pregnant woman’s pigmented skin surrounding her nipple contain molecules with odor that help infants find their way to the breast. So as babies, we smell before we can see clearly.
4. Human Pheromones May be Real While supposed bottled “pheromones” to drive the opposite sex wild with your perfume do not exist (they use pig pheromones), some scientists suspect that the human armpit could be sending all kinds of olfactory generated signals from casual flirtation to warnings about danger.
5. Women Can Smell Fear and Disgust In a 2012 study women were able to distinguish the smell of “fear sweat” (by opening their eyes widely in a fearful expression) on men’s clothing and “disgust sweat” (displaying facial expressions of disgust), subsequently experiencing the same emotions.
6. Taste is Strongly Connected to Smell Ever notice that when you a have a cold or the flu, it seems you can’t taste anything? Approximately 80 percent of what we taste is actually qualified by our sense of smell. This is why our taste is diminished when we’re congested.
7. Women Select Men by Scent A study at the University of Chicago reported that women select men according to scents exuded by those whose immune response genes varied the most from their own though contained some similarities.
8. We can Smell Thousands of Smells By the time you reach adulthood you are able to distinguish about 10,000 different smells. Cat piss. Bread right out of the oven and 9,998 others!
9. Anxiety Makes the World Stink When we’re stressed and anxious, not only does our sense of smell become sharper, but we also perceive neutral smells as less pleasant. So the more stressed we are, the stinkier the world becomes.
10. Lavender Odor Makes you Happy No wonder there is so much lavender in aromatherapy. Did you know that the smell of lavender puts you in a pleasant mood? But don’t burn lavender when your kids are doing their math homework because it supposedly lowers your math-solving abilities.