How Smells & Fragrances Affect your moods

Have you ever wondered how the mind associates a smells with good memories or bad smells with negative memories?


For me it’s, “The comfort I get when I walk into a room in my house with old furniture and it reminds me of sitting in my Gran-Mothers kitchen warming up by the range after being out on the yard or on my way home from school.”



There have been many studies into the effects of scents, smells, odours and aromatherapies that can’t affect the mood of you and your friends.  Its not just walking into a bakery after the bread has left the oven, there’s that new car smell and the new baby smell these are all cause good feelings and associations.  In comparison the smell of rotting food, and even death which lingers in the air, which is associated with disgust, anxiety, and fear. 

As your smelling the sweet scents of perfume or aftershave for men, the scent goes into the back of the nose and hits millions of sensory neurons, this is called the olfactory epithelium.  The Olfactory system has cells containing proteins that bind the odorant molecules these are transmitted to the olfactory bulb through receptors cells, which themselves are receptors designed to bind molecules.  Each scent sends of a unique sequence to the receptors with each unique sequence it will cerate a perception of sweet flowers or another sequence sharp fresh aftershave. As each of the unique sequences reach the olfactory system they get transmitted to the brain by electrical signals through the olfactory bulb.


Our sense of smell is in the primal part of our brain, none of the other senses has a direct connection to areas of the brain that process memory, associated learning and emotion.  This is how sometimes smells can trigger emotions before you are aware of what you are smelling the fragrance. 


Taste is also affected, with taste being a multi-sensory phenomenon, taste as in the food we eat is created through flavours, smells and visual senses.  When food is chewed or sipped the vapours pass into the air passages that connect the mouth and nose. The olfactory receptors are stimulated allowing for other flavours to be realized.


Humans have about 10cm squared but dogs have 170cm squared of olfactory epithelium, a dog’s epithelium is 100 x denser with receptors per centimetre square.


Advertising Companies using the psychology of smell to create memories and emotions


With this in mind advertising agency have used this knowledge for their brands to help entice you to associate their products with good emotions.


Even Apple (the company) are scenting their Apple Mac Pro boxes with an orchard scent. Everyone loves the unboxing of their apple products, a lot of thought and experience has gone into the process to make it enjoyable, exciting everything you wanted and more. You are also paying for that experience and the studies that go into creating those experiences, it is an art form which may be underappreciated, by other companies and brands.


Food producers even design there packaging so you can smell the scents through there packaging when cooking like the coffee Nespresso they have designed their pods to release the coffee smell into the air while being made.  Bakeries also release the aroma of fresh bread onto the street. This is to entice people in for that freshly baked bread, that probably left the oven at 6am that morning when you weren’t around to smell that blissful sweet smell.


Around the WORLD


People’s Perceptions of smell changes around the world. These scents are from what we have grown up around and have been exposed to, and what is local to us, as the internet does not yet have smell everything we experience is local.  Different traditions, religions, and available foods all play a part.  On a very broad look, the Indian cultures like a lot of spices in their foods, the Asian Cultures loves Garlic, the West loves milk and dairy, this can influence the smell of the people in that country.


Even Floral smells have different meaning around the world due to their association, what is expensive and modern in the UK can be old fashioned in the USA used as toilet cleaner in Brazil.  


Some perfumes show the ideal scents of countries and how their perception is very different; -

Japan and south Korea would prefer a sweet fragrance, you would find notes of Jasmine and rose in their perfumes Issey Miyake’s L’Eau D’issey Eau de Toilette

United Kingdom – preferred perfume is Chanel no5 Eau de Parfum – it would be a rich full fragrance, rose and jasmine with bright citrus notes and bourbon vanilla.

USA - like simpler scents that have a fruity combination Byredo’s Bibliotheque has a floral note of peony and violet with peaches and plum.  

France – like a charming and full fragrances Chanel CoCo mademoiselle with its fruity, floral and citrus notes is a very complex elegant perfume.

Other areas were smell is making differences

Health has a smell - in traditional Chinese medicine its more herbal natural authentic smell were as in the UK it’s the smell of antiseptic.   Hospitals are a good example of association memories with smell for some it will trigger memories of lose sorrow and pain in others joy, relief and feeling safe. 


We could look into health further in that dogs can smell out illnesses and changes in our bodies as we release odours that they can detect but we can’t in most recently they have been trained to sniff out covid-19 but more notoriously able to sniff out cancer. 



Can we use scent to increase productivity in an office or a workspace, they have already done it to get us to buy more in bakeries, car stores, takeaways etc. They have done it to get us to relax in spas and at home with those wonderful candles and essence oils or your favourite spa, I am relaxed just thinking about it. 



As I research this more there are lots of blends of aromatherapy oils for different emotional conditions, if your stressed use lavender, lime and spearmint or if tired use juniper, wild orange, and grapefruit.  At the moment I am not tired but I think that juniper blend could be nice and fresh for my kitchen area. 

The sense of smell is underrated in comparison to the other senses as without it, it would affect us greatly.  Some food would be bland and favourless or sweet and favourless Try the Jelly bean test eat a jelly bean and hold your nose, they all taste the same but before this the red was my favourite.

Our world would become smaller as we would no longer smell Mum’s cooking cookies at Christmas.  (Christmas is the holiday of smell.)  We would no longer not smell rotten food before it hit our lips. Yuck.  We wouldn’t have that memory of the past being triggered when it was far from memory or contemplation. 

As we get older we can lose our sense of smell gradually and we don’t even realise it, this in turn can affect appetite and sometimes contributing to poor nutrition. It is thought that early lose of smell can detect illnesses.  The scientists are looking at Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to see if this is an early symptom.



 I find this all fascinating as it was an overlooked sense that highly educated people have been engineering our perceptions without us realising it, to get an outcome that is favourable to them.

Here are some of my references: -

Nose senses