Five Senses

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smell

Smell

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One of the most powerful senses, smell can trigger associations and draw upon memories of other smells. The smell of cedar, for example, can evoke strong reactions, says Joy Monice Malnar, co-author of "Sensory Design"1. The smell reminds her University od Illinois at Urbana-Hampaign architecture students of their youth. “It’s about a fond memory that’s attached to going into the closet and smelling the scent,” she says. The same smell, she adds, is even more important to the culture of Native Northwest Americans known as the Makah, whose homes were made of cedar.

Smells stimulate certain areas of the brain responsible for creating emotions and memories. The human nose can identify and recall as many as 10,000 scents and as much as 75 percent of our emotions are generated by what we smell2. Out of all the senses, smell is the only one with a direct link to the brain. As Dr. John Medina explains in his bestseller Brain Rules, “Every other sensory system must send a signal to the thalamus and ask permission to connect to the rest of the brain ... Smell signals bypass the thalamus and go right to their brainy destinations.”3. Like taste, scent can make people feel at home.

1 Sensory Design, Joy Monice Malnar and Frank Vodvarka, University of Minnesota Press, 2004.
2 BRAND sense, Martin Lindstrom, Free Press, 2005.
3 Brain Rules, John Medina, Pear Press, 2008.