The Powerful Connection Between Scent & Memory

Cracking open a fresh box of crayons. Slathering on your favorite sunblock. Catching the aroma of the perfume your Mom used to wear. Some scents are so closely tied to experiences and moments in our lives that, when we encounter them later in life, they instantly bring us back to a certain time and place in our personal history. 

This is called Olfactory memory - the recollection of memories connected to certain odors. Probably more than any other of our senses, smell is most closely tied to memory. But why?

The Power of Scent

Scents are chemical particles that enter through the nose, bypass the thalamus, and go straight to the brain's smell center, known as the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb is where the sensation of scent is first processed for the brain to read. This information is then shared directly with the amygdala, which processes emotions, and the hippocampus, where learning and memory formation take place. All other senses must first pass through the thalamus, which directs information that is seen, heard, or felt to the brain. 

Why Are So Many Scents Tied To Childhood Memories?

When we think of our childhood, many memories come to mind. Maybe a best friend, a favorite teacher, or a well-loved childhood treat are what we first picture in our minds. Actively thinking of some of our most pleasant or possibly even unpleasant childhood recollections is almost like retrieving a memory from a file.

With the sense of smell, a certain scent can immediately and intensely trigger a memory. The smell of Play-Doh and paste, your high school lunchroom on pizza day, the fabric softener your parents used when you were a child. All of these scents are basically imprinted on our olfactory memory at a young age. It is during this time that we first experience the most scents. 

Research indicates that our scent memory skews quite young, with a potential peak of around age 5. For visual and verbal memories, many are formed in a person’s teens and 20s. Scent memories are also often more vivid and emotionally-tinged than memories associated with visual and verbal cues.

When you visit us at Urban Wick Candle Bar, we invite you to not only find your new favorite scent blend but also welcome back fond memories from your past. With over 90 premium fragrance oils to choose from at our Scent Wall, we have a scent for everyone. 

 

Sources:

https://www.livescience.com/why-smells-trigger-memories.html
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-smells-trigger-memories1/
https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/fragrant-flashbacks


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