The relation between scent and emotions
Can Bad Memories Affect Your Attitude Toward Your Favorite Scent?
Scent creates profound emotion and meaning for the majority of us. It may instantaneously transport you back to a time, a mood, or a recollection of where you were when you first smelled it, just like a music can. A scent may become so deeply connected with who you are and how you want to be perceived, even remembered, that it becomes a part of your identity. And, like a severe haircut, a new scent frequently coincides with a big personal shift. When I think about my personal perfume collection, it’s as if I’m gazing at an olfactory soundtrack of my life.
The connection between scent and emotions
Lauren by Ralph Lauren was my first perfume when I was 15, and it was the ideal scent for young Manhattanites. Then, in 1987, during my freshman year of college, I had a dramatic encounter with Dior’s Poison. It was powerful and overpowering, and it might have summed up my personality at the moment. When I transferred from Ithaca College to NYU, I needed a new scent, so I went for Givenchy’s Xeryus. Wearing a man’s perfume made me feel cool, clever, and sexy. (I wasn’t.)
No emotional connection in scent and emotions
Following that, I had a 20-year love affair with Prescriptives’ classic citrusy-green Calyx, which I abandoned when a long-term engagement ended in favor of the two current scents I’ve rotated between for the last five years: Atelier Cologne’s Pacific Lime and Bond No. 9’s Park Avenue South. The former is clean, crisp, and fresh, with a fruity aroma that is just sufficiently different from Calyx to stand out. The latter is a mystery to me because it smells like nothing else I’ve ever encountered. On my skin, it doesn’t smell the same as it did in the sample. Its elusiveness is part of its allure. I couldn’t think of a single thing to compare it to—no recollection, no previous emotional connection.
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A psychological foundation between scent and emotions
The urge to refresh your Scent after major life events occur is a natural and healthy response. There is some psychological and neurological foundation for wanting to alter your perfume, says Julie Walsh-Messinger, an assistant professor in the University of Dayton’s psychology department who specializes in olfaction, emotion, and social behavior.
The avoidance of old memories, and the creation of new ones.
Making a mental shift provides us power and has an influence on our emotions. When you’ve just broken up with someone, the last thing you want to do is smell something that makes you unhappy. It’s simple to change your scent. It aids in the management of emotions, the avoidance of old memories, and the creation of new ones.
Much like a song
It connects and stimulates a specific, but distinct, area of the brain, much like a song. The shortest and most direct route to the limbic system in the brain, which is responsible for forming, reactivating, storing, and retrieving memories and emotions, is through the nose. Each perfume evokes a different set of memories and experiences. Older memories and emotions disappear as you form new ones.
It moves you to a specific moment or situation
Everyone scents themselves culturally, says Dawn Goldworm, an olfactory expert who has worked with the likes of Lady Gaga and the Olsens. It’s a marker of their generation for some, she says, noting that olfactory memories are becoming the largest and most heightened portion of your memory. In Volume 1 of Remembrance of Things Past, novelist Marcel Proust memorably caught this direct and visceral sense/memory connection in his recall of a tea-soaked madeleine. (Fun fact: Taste is mostly perceived through the sense of smell.) When you smell anything later in life, it moves you to a specific moment or situation.