I couldn’t make sense of the words of a visiting lecturer yesterday; who taking a critical glance at my tactile works asked “what’s smell got to do with tactile art ?”
I suppose as a registered blind person I forgot to consider “normalisation”, but for a blind person, or someone with sight-loss, I would argue that smell takes over much that eyes cannot deliver.
I therefore will attempt to answer why is our sense of smell such a vital part of our lives – and how has it influenced science, art, culture and history?
1. A new nose
You can smell as fresh as a daisy every month and your scent cells are renewed every 28 days, so every four weeks you get a new “nose”
2. Remembering a smell
Smell is the most sensitive of the senses. People can remember smells with 65% accuracy after a year, while visual recall is about 50% after three months.
Research has shown that smell is the sense most linked to our emotional recollection. So, when linked to a product, that can reap dividends.
Studies show that 75% of emotions are triggered by smell which is linked to pleasure, well-being, emotion and memory – handy when you want people to buy your products.
One of the most evocative smells from childhood is crayons.
A survey found that 85% of all people remembered their childhood when they caught the smell of Crayola crayons and the newer crayon-scented coloured pens
3. Your sense of smell gets bored easily
The sense of smell gets bored easily. When entering a bakery or florist you are very aware of the aroma but by the time you reach the check-out you will no longer be able to smell the different aromas around you.
4. Early developer
The sense of smell is the first of all our senses to develop. Even before we are born, our sense of smell is fully formed and functioning.
5. A female sense of smell
A woman’s sense of smell is much stronger than a man’s. It is heightened even more in the first half of the menstrual cycle and reaches its peak when she is most fertile.
6. Peak sense of smell
The sense of smell peaks when we are in our late teens and begins a gradual decline. People who have an impaired ability to smell, and therefore taste, tend to follow diets that are less healthy.
7. Seasons and smell
You can smell things better in the spring and summer, due to the additional moisture in the air. For the same reason, it is also stronger after exercise, which also increases the moisture in the nasal passage.
8. Punny humans
Humans are Humans have five to six million odour detecting cells but that is nothing compared to the animal kingdom. Rabbits have 100 million and a dog 220 million.
9. Unique sweat
Forget fingerprints or CCTV, perspiration could be the big thing for crime busting in the future. Israeli chemists say the food we eat, drugs we take, gender and even state of mind, all combine to make each person’s sweat unique.
10. An animals favourite smell
While humans each have a favourite smell, so too do animals. Cats like the smell of valerian, lions a mint smell and camels like the smell of tobacco.
11. A smell in history
It is not enough now to go to museums to see the past come to life, you have to smell it, too. At the Jorvik Viking Centre, a stench is pumped inside to give visitors a true simulation of what the Viking era would have smelled like.
The museum attracts more than 14 million visitors a year who visit to experience smells such as a Viking toilet and village.
12. Area size
The human brain can process roughly 10,000 smells in an area the size of a postage stamp, each triggering a neural response.
13. New car smell
The smell of a new leather jacket or pair of shoes makes everyone happy. But a new car smells best of all. An artificial “new car smell” is sprayed inside cars that lasts for six weeks.
And while not everyone can own a Rolls-Royce, at least you could get the smell. The car manufacturer reproduced the scent of the 1965 Silver Cloud and sprays it under the seats to recreate the smell of a classic Roller.
The same goes for flying. Singapore Airlines recreated a scent of the Orient for its flights. The aroma of lotus flowers and bamboo forests is put on hot towels for passengers.
14. Can you smell in your sleep?
The answer to the question, can you smell in your sleep, is quite simply, no. As it turns out, the phrase wake up and smell the coffee is more true than you would imagine. When you are asleep, your sense of smell shuts down. You can only smell the coffee after you have woken up.
15. Smell and taste
Your sense of smell accounts for 75-95% of the impact a flavour has. Without being able to smell the difference between onion and potato, it’d be difficult to tell them apart.
16. Sports smells
Sport can use the power of smell. During baseball’s World Series of 2009, the Tampa Bay Rays ditched stale hot dogs and beer in favour of a scent dubbed “citrus burst” to flood the stadium.
17. People who cannot smell
People who cannot smell have a condition called anosmia.
18. Hotel smells
In America, hotel chains have devised their own scent. Sheratons smell like fig, clove and jasmine; Westin lobbies go for white tea while the Four Points venues smell of cinnamon.
19. The smell attraction
The way we smell plays a large part in who we are attracted to. In one study, a selection of women wore men’s T-shirts and were more attracted to the bodily scents of men who had a different type of gene section.
20. Bad smells
Spare a thought for the poor people who suffer from cacosmia. Even a bunch of fresh flowers is horrible as they perceive all smells as something revolting, such as putrid or vomit.