The Biochemistry and Psychology of Perfumery

Some recent results from the Warwick Olfaction Research Group, probably for the first time, employ the terms biochemistry and psychology together in relation to the subject of perfumery. One might ask the question "What relationship can there be between these two disciplines and present day perfumery?” It is apparent that the perfumery phenomena are related to our sense of smell. There is a biochemistry of the sense of smell, therefore, we can also have a biochemistry and psychology of perfumery.

There are two daily events found in the lives of people in the occident which have great interest: some people would be observed to pour or spray fragrant liquids on their skin with the interesting result that they feel happier, more self-confident and more attractive. Some people would be observed to gain a state of happiness by swallowing a small pill. Differences in the general psychology of tbe two classes of people would bc apparent, reflecting the fact that one of these activities is regarded as “normal” and the other as a treatment for depression. We may ask whether there is a common link between these phenomena.

We can see, as shown in figure 1, that the two categories of human activity are similar in formal biological sense. In both cases we have chemicals, either perfumes or tranquilizers, reaching the appropriate receptors and bringing about a change in the mood of the recipient. We pass imperceptively from the obvious biochemistry of the receptor events to the obvious psychology of the mood change. Biochemist and psychology meet at the axis of the body-mind interaction. If we are to have a complete understanding of perfumery this must include an account of both the biochemical and psychological dimensions.

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