The Nose Knows!

Ein paar wirklich interessante Gedanken zum Thema Gerüche von Paul Smith, die ich hier gelesen habe.

Do you have a nose for words? The great German poet Friedrich Schiller kept a bowl of rotten apples in the drawer of his desk for when he got writer’s block. A sniff of the pungent aroma would somehow trigger an association and he’d be able to continue his creative writing. It’s an intriguing thought that the mere whiff of a certain smell can open doors in the mind and loosen the tongue.

The most famous example of smell-induced memories is that of Marcel Proust. The recollections for his epic work „The Remembrance of Things Past“ started flooding his mind after drinking a spoonful of tea in which he had soaked a piece of cake. „Suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was of a little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings… my Aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea…. Immediately the old gray house on the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set…and the entire town, with its people and houses, gardens, church, and surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being from my cup of tea.“ What followed was the longest novel ever written, over 1.5 million words spanning 13 volumes.

There’s no doubt that a host of aromatic substances: perfumes, scents, sprays, wines, whiskys,… can evoke very personal and special memories. And marketers are not unaccustomed to help us give shape to such thoughts. Space NK founder Nicky Kinnaird was inspired to create a perfume while travelling through India. His Champaca is described as „a subtle scent with hints of vetiver, cedarwood, amber and musk. It shrouds the skin rather like incense, and transports one, if only in the imagination, to the wondrous temples of Rajasthan“. Contrast the Champaca experience to the scottish whisky Ardbeg described as „the peatiest, smokiest and most complex of all the Islay malts. Together with its smokiness, Ardbeg is renowned for its devilishly delicious sweetness, a phenomenon that has affectionately become known as ‚the peaty paradox’”.

Can our noses be employed to help us learn academically? According to Dr Alan Hirsch, Director of the Smell and Taste Research Foundation in Chicago the answer is yes. Hirsch claims there are scents that reduce test anxiety and enhance learning. If you’d like to know how maths are related to oranges, and why men and women respond differently to mangos and limes, check out his book „Life’s a Smelling Success“.

The notion of aroma-supported learning is also being investigated by neuroscientists at the University of Lübeck who have discovered that the smell of roses delivered to students while learning, and then later whilst asleep, improved their memory performance by almost 15%. It seems that olfactory sensations are processed by older parts of the brain with different access points to long-term memory.

Besides memory, smells can trigger emotions and influence behaviour, a fact understood by designers of workplaces and sales environments:

· In Japan, office buildings are scented to reduce clerical errors and to enhance productivity.
· In Las Vegas an experiment involving scenting an area with slot machines resulted in an over 10% increase in revenues according to the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation of Chicago.
· Proofreaders are more efficient when peppermint or lavender scents are in the air according to the Good Housekeeping Institute
· A London nightclub doubled its sales of the tropical drink Malibu by introducing a coconut smell into the atmosphere.
For most of us the smell of freshly baked bread evokes pleasant childhood memories. Home-sellers have discovered that baking bread or cakes before the visit of a prospective buyer makes the atmosphere more appealing. The homely smell of fresh-baked bread really seems to improve the chances of selling one’s house!

So beware next time you are in a „buying situation“ and notice a pleasant aroma – someone, somewhere may be gently trying to help you make up your mind. Interesting that „den Braten riechen“ translates into English as „to smell a rat!“

Danke Paul Smith für diese Gedanken!

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