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What We Remember About Odors

Contact Author William S. Cain
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Fine fragrances are created to have a positive emotional impace on people. Sometimes the positive impact occurs upon first exposure. In some cases a fragrance may actually seem strange and not particularly appealing at first but might grow in fascination and positive impact over time. These changes imply that our interpretation of odors is hardly static.

There has been very little research on the subject of how people react to fine fragrances. There are, however, some facts about immediate reactions to odors and memory for odors that can help us appreciate the dynamic, yet still somewhat mysterious relation of human beings to their odor environment.

Lability of Preference

The affective or hedonic reaction to odors is labile. That is, what we like or dislike can change with age, with simple exposure, and with context. Infant human beings are generally indifferent to most odors, but become progressively more discriminating with time. The youngster who plays with feces at 2 yrs. will not do so at 7 yrs. In a more positive vein, the smell of a flower, previously quite neutral, may lure the 7 year old. The differentiation of the odor world into pleasant and unpleasant seems to take place by elaborate conditioning, some of it social and some biological.

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