Makes Sense

Smell Here’s more evidence we are more than just a collection of “parts.” Not to mention, it’s such a wonderful sense God gave us—as smell relates to taste, and oh, the tastes He’s created. I mean, really: Philly cheesesteak. No, kidding! (Sort of.)

But pomegranates, mangos, kiwi. Yum. All made possible by smell. (It's a feature of our nature that we should take time to pay attention to and thank God for, as Catherine noted.)

But so much more than the physical, as a recent study of Swedes (there you go, David!) demonstrated, the sense of smell is connected to memory and emotions. (HT Reveries)

Studying groups of Swedes whose average age was 75, the researchers offered three different sets of the same 20 memory cues — the cue as a word, as a picture and as a smell. The scientists found that while the word and visual cues elicited associations largely from subjects’ adolescence and young adulthood, the smell cues evoked thoughts of early childhood, under the age of 10.

And despite the comparative antiquity of such memories, Dr. Larsson said, people described them in exceptionally rich and emotional terms, and they were much likelier to report the sudden sensation of being brought back in time. They smelled cardamom, and there they were in the kitchen, flour dust flying as they helped Mama and Nana roll out the holiday buns. The scent of tar, and they’re back at the dock with Dad, tarring the bottom of the family boat in anticipation of long summer sails.

Dr. Larsson attributes the youthfulness of smell memories to the fact that our olfaction is the first of our senses to mature and only later cedes cognitive primacy to vision and words, while the cortical link between olfaction and emotion ensures that those early sensations keep their bloom all life long.


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