Posted in Kafevend Blog

According to my Mum, my Dad was convinced that there was a certain section on a motorway that had a coffee scent pumped throughout it- and sure enough, not a minute more ahead was a service station that one might be inclined to stop at and enjoy a coffee. Crafty marketing aside, why is it that smells trigger memories and emotions almost instantly?

We are able to perceive odours with the use of the olfactory bulb, located on the bottom of the brain up at the front above the nose, surprisingly enough. It forms part of the limbic system which is a collection of parts of the brain that support our sense of smell (olfaction), memory, motivation, emotion and behaviour. Two parts of the system are the amygdala and hippocampus, which support emotion and memory, part of the reason why we so easily recall certain memories when we detect certain smells.

The reason for the recall is due to conditioning- remember Pavlov's dog? When we smell something new, we often link that smell with something that occurred at the time; the scent of a cake baking we might link with a time we made a cake when we were young. We also link smells with emotions we felt at the time- using the same example, we might get a sense of pride or happiness remembering when we first made that cake.

It turns out that my Dad was probably correct about the coffee scent. There has always been the lure of the scent of freshly baked bread from a bakery, but these days artificial smells can be made by using fragranced oils that are vapourised and pumped throughout a store. Apparently, parents linger longer at the toy store Hamleys due to the scent of piña colada being wafted through it in the summer time!

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