The links with feelings, memory and attraction caused by smell


We have five senses – taste, touch, sight, sound and smell – but of the five, smell is probably the most underrated and unappreciated.

Our sense of smell allows us to identify and detect odours and scents, but there is so much more to it than that. Smell impacts on far more areas of our lives than we realise.


Feelings and smells are inextricably linked. Smells can provoke different feelings such as vitality, relaxation or sadness. They can even make you happy, maybe through the scent of a flower or your favourite food.

Feelings are triggered by particular smells and the linkage is dependent on our personal life experiences with that smell.

Obviously, some smells can have the opposite effect. Some smells can warn us of danger such as off food and smoke, and we can find these smells repulsive. These smells can provoke feelings of disgust and dread.

Experiments have been conducted to examine this connection – and the relationship between smell and feelings cannot be denied. The experiments showed that pleasant fragrances can result in a positive mood.


Smells are linked to memory. A whiff of a flower and you could be transported back to your childhood backyard, or a perfume, back to a loved one.

Recent studies have found that scents could reignite forgotten memories. Smells can give you flashbacks, called an “odour-evoked autobiographical memory” according to research technologist Dr Amanda White at Penn State College of Medicine.

An odour-provoked autobiographical memory evokes memories of events rather than conceptual memories. A scent is more likely to lead to recalling a sensation related to memory rather than actual facts.

Our team mentions recent research has shown odour-induced memories can be stronger and trigger more intense emotions. Memory, therefore, plays a larger role in our memory recall than we may have previously thought.


Smell also plays a significant role in finding a partner. Smell’s not something you will consciously notice while dating but it is very important when it comes to attraction.

Researchers have found that we all have a unique body odour that helps us find the appropriate match. The theory behind the link between smell and attraction is that somehow, we select immune compatibility based on a person’s smell.

Effects for business

Considering that smell has the power to provoke emotions and memories, many businesses are turning to smells to help create a positive customer experience.

Not only are they creating a nice smell to help entice customers to come through the door, they are also trying to create specific moods or feelings that reflect the brand’s message.