The Olfactory Process and its Effect on Human Behavior

  • :: 10 Works Cited
  • Length: 1378 words (3.9 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓

Continue reading...

Open Document

The Olfactory Process and its Effect on Human Behavior

Early childhood memories can be evoked by many triggers, of which one of the most powerful is a particular smell. A couple of years ago, I was unpacking boxes of Christmas decorations from the attic. One of the boxes contained old, partially melted candles that were to be put on the fireplace mantle and lit on Christmas Eve. Unrolling each uniquely fragrant candle from the yellowed newspaper, I suddenly had a vivid recollection of a childhood experience. I was between the ages of two and three, wandering through a candle store with my parents in the Greek section of Detroit, Michigan. I gazed wide-eyed at the seemingly endless shelves of wax figurines, reaching through the restraining arms of my father in attempts to feel their smooth contours. After slowly returning to reality, I realized that the smell of the candles being used to decorate for the holidays triggered my earliest memory of childhood. I thought about the memory frequently after that, and longed to return to the store to see if my physical presence there would evoke other memories. When I visited Detroit a few months ago, I was disappointed to discover that the store had long been out of business and only my new memory would remain.
I found it somewhat disturbing that my earliest memory was of an insignificant retail store that would have no bearing on my adult life. Why did I not remember a more significant event, such as an early Christmas, or my second birthday? The answer is that the sense of smell, that is, olfaction, has a powerful command over many behaviors, including memory. Intrigued with this connection as an example of sensory input influencing behavior, it is my goal to examine the neurobiology of the olfaction process in humans and to investigate the ways in which odors elicit particular behaviors.

For humans, olfaction is a primitive sense, whereas other mammals, birds and insects rely predominately on their sense of smell for survival. The approach of a charging bear would be recognized by a human within seconds of its attack, while a dog would have certainly caught his scent long before the human companion had any knowledge of the bear's presence. Although smell seems far less meaningful to humans, there is an important link between olfaction and behavior. For example, in my memory described above, the simple visual cues provided by the sight of any ordinary candle does not evoke my memory of the sweet smelling store.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Olfactory Process and its Effect on Human Behavior." 26 May 2018
Title Length Color Rating  
Essay about Psychologist Robin Dunbar and Sleep Deprivation - Industrial/Organizational Psychology One of the four professional specialties in psychology is industrial/organizational psychology. This specific profession deals with the numerous responsibilities associated with the world of business and industry (Weiten 20). Industrial/Organizational psychologists have the ability to run human resource departments, increase job satisfaction, recognize areas for improvement, and improve employee attitudes and morale (Weiten 20). Although this area of psychology accounts for a small amount of jobs in psychology, it is extremely beneficial to the success of businesses....   [tags: placebo effect, rewards]
:: 13 Works Cited
1540 words
(4.4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
How Martketers Use Nonverbal Communication to Influence Consumer Decision Making Process - Outline Purpose: • I want to show how marketers use nonverbal communication to influence consumer decision making process Introduction: • Consumers don't even realize how heavily their decision making process is influenced by nonverbal communication Body Outline: • Main Idea Nonverbal communication as a an consumer decision making influencer • Physical communication • Signs of communication (mechanical communication) • Aesthetic communication • Symbols of communication • Supporting Material • Experiments performed • Statistics • Other researches information Conclusion: • Consumer Decision making process and nonverbal communication directly connected....   [tags: marketing strategies]
:: 4 Works Cited
1405 words
(4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
History of the Horse, Equus Caballus Essay - The horse, (Equus Caballus) has been in existence for millions of years and has changed greatly through evolution, which has had an effect on the horse's physical characteristics and behaviour through natural selection. Fossils found over the years indicate how the horse gradually adapted to the changes in the environment. Some of the evolutionary developments that took place relate to teeth changing, adapting to the changing diet, improved distance between the eyes which increased the lateral vision allowing them to watch for predators when eating, a longer neck improving range of vision, longer limbs showing an adaptation for running, changes in the toes developing to a single toe protecte...   [tags: behavior, characteristics, domestication]
:: 20 Works Cited
1554 words
(4.4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Psychology: Behavior and Mental Process Essay - Psychology is the study of the behavior of individuals and their mental processes. (Gerrig page 2). I think the field of psychology is divided into several parts: Research, counseling, perspectives, goals, and careers. Research has played a vital role in the psychology. It has identified and helped us to understand how and why people feel, act, and think. Implementing the scientific method enables the results to be both reliable and valid. By employing this precise method, psychologists are able to collect data and make reasonable conclusions based upon the facts collected....   [tags: counseling, culture, behavior]
:: 2 Works Cited
1090 words
(3.1 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The Potential Impacts of Olfactory Loss on Our Lives under Different Situations - 1. Introduction For thousands of years, people tend to take our sense of smell as granted. We name the patients who lose vision as the blind, lose audition as the deaf, lose olfactory, albeit less known, as anosmia. Anosmia is defined as the dysfunction of olfactory, including partially disabled and completely disabled. It is sometimes trivial and common yet sometimes devastating due to its complicated relationship with the sense of taste and our brain especially the limbic system. This paper will show you a glance at the potential effects brought by the loss of olfactory via explaining the process of perceiving smell and subsequently analyzing the corresponding consequences in the aspects...   [tags: Anosmia, Perception Habits]
:: 9 Works Cited
881 words
(2.5 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Artificial Olfactory Enhancement Essay examples - Artificial Olfactory Enhancement The human olfactory system is responsible for perceiving the chemical world around us. By sampling the environment, we can determine the presence of other individuals, possible danger, or distinguish acceptable food. Consisting of our sense of taste and smell, the olfactory system is a highly interrelated coordination of chemical and nerve responses. Yet as we have all experienced, human olfaction has limits. The popular image of a bloodhound leading hunters through the woods is one example of these limits....   [tags: Olfactory Enhancement Essays]
:: 4 Works Cited
1644 words
(4.7 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The effects of learning, memory and behavior in Rattus Essay - In rats (Rattus) it appears that maternal behaviors can affect her pups developmental behavior and endocrine physiology. In unfavorable environmental stressor the brain and body will release signals and hormones to try to maintain the body’s homeostatic conditions 1. The system that is responsible for the direct regulation of stress and therefore the indirect maternal response is the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA axis). The hypothalamus controls the secretion of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), which triggers the release of ACTH from the anterior pituitary, and then stimulates secretion by the adrenal cortex of glucocorticoid hormones, specifically cortisol1....   [tags: Developmental Behavior, Endocrine Physiology]
:: 6 Works Cited
1064 words
(3 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay about Psychology: The Study of Behavior and Mental Process - ... In order to figure out something, you must first understand it. Therefore, psychology’s first goal is description. Description is naming and classifying specific behavior. It is based on careful, organized procedure as opposed to careless description of common sense. It involves figuring out what exactly is happening and studying every little detail about it such as where it normally happens, to whom it happens to, and under what conditions it seems to happen. The specific job of a psychologist is to study and carefully observe everything about their patient....   [tags: health, control, explanation] 1335 words
(3.8 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The Effects of Domestic Violence on Child Behavior Essay - ... They might start hanging out with the wrong group of people and doing things that is frowned upon by authorities. They do not care about what happens to them and do what their friends think is all right. They release their behavior with violence. They become short tempered and argue or fight with anyone who gets in their way. “There is also increasing evidence that children in domestically violent homes have difficulty in the area of emotional expression” (Katz & Windecker-Nelson, 2006). They can feel that away to release their emotion is by physically hurting themselves or others....   [tags: increased risk behavior problems] 1102 words
(3.1 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Olfactory Senses Essay example - This is a test of the olfactory senses. Olfactory senses (sense of smell) are due to the olfactory cells being activated by odiferous molecules coming in contact with the olfactory vessels located in your nasal cavity. The nasal cavity is a tube that functions as a pathway that leads odiferous molecules to the olfactory epithelium. This epithelium is made of three different types of cells. The first type of cell is a basal cell, a stem cell that can later form into the receptor cells that line the nasal cavity....   [tags: Nasal Cavity, Distinguishing Smells]
:: 2 Works Cited
985 words
(2.8 pages)
Better Essays [preview]

Related Searches

Rather, I have to rely on my olfactory processing of a particular waxy scent in order to recall the detail of the store, its hundreds of wax figures and my childhood perspective of the event.

The world as we know it is filled with fragrances, from sweet smelling foods and beauty products to the unpleasant smells of pollution and chemical supplies. How is it possible for humans to distinguish and discriminate between the millions of odors present? To answer this question, one must start at the beginning, with an individual odor molecule. With such a diverse array of fragrances in the world, the shape of an individual odor molecule is unique to the emitting substance (1). When inhaled, the odor molecule is absorbed in the nasal passage and binds to chemoreceptors in the olfactory epithelium, which are specific to certain odor molecules (2). This binding initiates a change in the permeability of the sensory neuron, which creates a slow electric potential that travels to the olfactory bulb (3). From the olfactory bulb, the transmitted signal is sent to the limbic system of the brain for further processing (2). Recognition of the odor occurs in the limbic system when the signal is interpreted through a comparison to past experiences with the odor and relation of the smell to the emitting substance (4).

A couple of prominent features of the olfactory system deserve some close attention. First, it is interesting to note that olfactory neurons, unlike most other types of neurons, are produced in constant supply with the regeneration of new cells approximately every 60 days to replace the dead olfactory neurons (5). Researchers are currently studying the possibility that insulin or other hormones may be responsible for the capability of olfactory cell growth, which is unique to the mammalian central nervous system (3). Second, the limbic system of the brain, which receives information from the chemoreceptors about a particular odor, not only mediates mood and emotion, but also serves as a memory storage area (4). This common junction, where memories, emotions and odors meet, explains why smell is often an intense trigger for distinct memories and potent emotions (4). When perceiving a particular aroma that is associated with a past memory, the recognition of the odor in the olfactory process will simultaneously evoke the correlated memory. Third, in just one square inch of the brain, humans have the capacity to process about 10,000 different odors (6). The majority of aromas perceived involve a complex organization of hundreds of odor molecules, and through the simultaneous recognition of the individual odor molecules, a complex scent is recognized as a whole equal to the sum of its parts (1).

Determining the links between specific odors and a produced behavior is a technique that scientists are still trying to perfect. However, in one documented case, conducted by neuroscientists at Tufts Medical School and New England Medical Center, a salamander's perception of a particular odor will evoke a change in a its skin potential (5). Elsewhere, other scientists attempt to learn about the details of emotional response generated from odors in the new science of aromachology, which is often mislabeled aromatherapy. The practice of aromatherapy has been documented since the days of Cleopatra, in which she allegedly used perfumes and aromatic oils to seduce Julius Caesar and Mark Antony (7). This practice involves the therapeutic use of herbal extracts as natural, "essential" oils to soothe the body, spirit and mind (8). Aromachology, on the other hand, is a newly developing science in which the effect of odors on behavior is scientifically measured through carefully controlled experiments (9). Developed in 1982 by the Olfactory Research Fund, aromachology was designed "to scientifically study the interrelationship of psychology and fragrance technology" by analyzing the emotions produced when odors activate the olfactory pathways that lead to the limbic system of the brain (9). In this region, odors initiate the release of neurotransmitters, which can affect the brain and mental state of an individual in a variety of ways (10). Serotonin produces a relaxing, soothing effect while endorphins inhibit pain and increase sexual arousal (10). Studies have shown that the use of certain aromas can benefit mood, behavior and productivity by determining what neurotransmitters will be released. For example, peppermint is perceived to be a mental stimulant that can increase a traveler's alertness while on a long journey, while vanilla, a mental relaxant, relieves stress, especially for uneasy MRI patients (11). The field of aromachology is relatively new and thus continues to develop through continual advances in science and technology.

My research on the olfactory processing has left me with two final thoughts. First, if the sense of smell is so vital to other animals, why is it a less prominent feature in humans? The reduction of olfaction appears to be an evolutionary disadvantage that violates the laws of natural selection. Clearly, the ability of any animal to sense a predator before its attack is a vital survival tactic. If it is such a critical characteristic, why then is olfaction suppressed in humans? Second, we often take for granted the importance of our sense of smell. But can anyone really imagine a world without odors? Without the sweet fragrances of spring or smell of freshly baked cookies, life would be less enjoyable. As primitive as it is, to lose our ability to stop and smell the roses would be a terrible tragedy.

WWW Sources

1)Scent of a Market

2)The Physiological Principle of the Olfactory Method

3)Monell's Neuroscience of Olfaction

4)How Do You Smell?

5) The Mystery of Smell

6)Cleopatra's Secret: Aromatherapy Massage

7)Aroma-Chology vs. Aromatherapy

8)Distinctions Between Aroma-Chology and Aromatherapy

9)Olfactory Connection

10)Aroma-Chology: The Psychology of Scent

Return to