Memories Triggered by Smells
January 18, 2007 10:02 AM Subscribe
For a lot of people, a particular aroma can be a strong trigger for memory. I don't think it works in reverse: why is this?
posted by peacay to science & nature (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If I get even the faintest whisps of aroma from a certain musk joss stick [incense], I am immediately transported back to the streets of Bangalore and Hyderabad which I visited many years ago. This can be as mild as a passing thought of 'India' in general or if I stop and concentrate, it can be vivid remembered scenes and colours and peoples' faces - you know, strongly evocative.
But in the absence of some aroma trigger, if I think about India (and I just use this as an example), even if I concentrate to try and remember events or people or places, I may get passing 'visions' or thought rememberances perhaps, but they never involve actually experiencing the same smells. In other words, smells don't seem to be able to be evoked but are themselves strongly evocative.
Is this just me? Do some people experience aromas when they think about specific people/places from their past? Are there all different grades of aroma-memory-responses? What's the interplay going on here? Is the sense of smell different in this respect to our other senses? Why? And I guess, arising from this, why can the smells make me remember things more vividly than my non-aroma mediated powers of concentration?