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How are Scent and Memory Connected?

Sniffing out the science behind it all

Our brains love to reminisce, especially when we get a whiff of a familiar scent.

Ever been immersed in a smell that immediately triggered a memory? It might take a second or two to understand the association, but when it happens, it’s instantly recognizable.

The science behind it

Fragrance is a powerful force to be reckoned with. Smells can evoke emotions, influence moods, and have you reliving entire memories with just a whiff. There’s certainly more than meets the nose when it comes to understanding why this happens.

Your nose has at least 1,000 smell receptors that change based on what you’re smelling in the moment. As a result, we can identify many kinds of smells, but odors usually have no personal significance until we associate a memory with them.

Your olfactory system is responsible for your sense of smell. Often called the “emotional brain”, it can instantly prompt powerful responses and memories. It has access to the hippocampus (no hippos involved), a nerve responsible for associative learning, and the amygdala, which is responsible for processing emotion. So, when you first smell something, your brain immediately links its scent to a moment, event or person. For instance, the scent of lemon might make you think of the lemon tree in your backyard growing up, but for another person it might be associated with the cleaning products their folks used in their childhood home.

Rose Bombshell Bath Bomb’s floral scent is sure to create a rush of happy, loving memories.

 Rose Bombshell Bath Bomb

Thanks to these personal experiences with scents, fragrance is just as subjective as picking your favorite food: it’s different for everyone. Whatever good or bad memory is related to a particular smell can actually determine whether you like it or not.

Enhance your mood

Scent is so strongly associated with our emotions and memories that it can even effect our moods—it’s one of the reasons we use essential oils in our products. That intense aroma from a bath bomb or shower gel the moment you use it can help lift your spirits, calm you down or help you reconnect with a familiar moment even if only for a few minutes. In fact, surrounding yourself with scents that evoke pleasant memories will help boost your mood.