Emotions Color Your Sense of Smell

They influence whether or not you like a scent

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MONDAY, Jan. 10, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Your emotions may influence whether you think your boss's perfume -- or any other smell -- is heinous or heavenly.

Researchers at Brown University exposed people playing computer games to custom-made scents. If the people were having a good time while they played the game, they were more likely to report that they liked the scent. If they were having a bad game, they were more likely to say they disliked the scent.

"As humans, we're not immediately predisposed to respond to a scent and believe that it is good or bad. When we like or don't like a smell, that is learned," lead researcher Rachel Herz, a visiting assistant professor of psychology, said in a prepared statement.

"Some people may smell a rose and be reminded of their father's funeral. Others may like the smell of skunk because they have a positive attachment to it from childhood," Herz said.

She said the study findings support the link between emotions and odor perception. There is little scientific data to back the idea that genetics influence odor perception, she added.

There are a few exceptions to the emotions-odor perception theory. For example, people immediately dislike irritating odors such as ammonia.

The study appears in the current issue of the International Journal of Comparative Psychology.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about smell.

SOURCE: Brown University, news release, Jan. 5, 2005

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