Memory & Scent

Why do certain scents trigger a forgotten memory?


6/13/20231 min read

woman in white shirt photo
woman in white shirt photo

Olfactory memory, also known as scent memory, refers to the ability to recall or evoke memories and emotions through the sense of smell. It is the connection between specific smells or fragrances and the associated memories or experiences they evoke.

Olfactory memory can be incredibly powerful and evoke vivid recollections and emotions. It is often characterized by a sense of immediacy and spontaneity, as scent memories can be retrieved quickly and with great intensity. The connection between smell and memory is believed to be particularly strong because the olfactory system has direct access to these emotion- and memory-related brain structures.

The ability of smell to trigger memories is often attributed to its close association with emotional experiences. Research suggests that emotional events or experiences are more likely to be encoded and stored in memory. When a specific scent is present during an emotionally charged event, it becomes linked to that memory, and encountering the same scent later can serve as a potent cue for recalling the associated experience.

Olfactory memory can evoke memories from various aspects of life, such as childhood, personal relationships, specific places, or significant events.

Harnessing the power of olfactory memory, scent can be used intentionally to create associations and enhance memory recall. This is why some people use familiar scents or fragrances during study or work and then reintroduce those scents during exams or important tasks to improve memory retrieval.