Thursday, November 23, 2017 1:59

Nostalgia and Sweet Odors of Youth

Posted by on Saturday, May 30, 2009, 12:26
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We know that an odor is the fastest way to trigger nostalgic reverie. A whiff of a particular scent can bring back entire scenes from the past, and you have no doubt had this experience.

The scent of a certain cologne reminds you of your grandmother, and in a matter of seconds, you are recalling events that took place, depending on your age, ten, twenty, fifty etc. If other people are around, you might start telling a story from that time gonna by, and if you are  alone, you might spend several minutes in a daydream like state.

Most people recall pleasant events from the past in the presence of a particular scent, but in some cases veterans, for example the smell of burning gasoline or rubber is enough to evoke extreme anxiety or even panic. It is as if they are for that moment back on the scene of the battle. This is not uncommon among men and women who have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

One study in which were asked 1000 people of all ages, coming from forty fife states and thirty nine country’s, to name the number one odor that made nostalgic for their childhoods. The smell of baked goods was the primary odor mentioned, which shows how closely food and childhood memories are linked.

The other choices depended larger on where people were raised. Those from East Cost named the smell of flowers as the most powerful nostalgic odor, while those from the South that the smell of fresh air took them back to childhood every time.

Country of origin made a difference, too. People raised in some of African countries mentioned the smell of maize, while people raised in Mediterranean countries for example Albania mention the smell of the sea.

Likewise, age was an important factor. Older people, those born before 1930, were more likely to mention natural smells meadows, pine trees, hay, and so forth.  But those born latter especially people born after 1950 were more likely to describe artificial smells, from Play Doh to plastic.

We can speculate that the odors available in inhalers today may increase a sense of well being because they trigger what we call an olfactory evoked nostalgic response. Just as the scents might reduce anxiety, the odors might trigger recall of pleasant times.

We may not be conscious of our responses either. A strawberry odor or a whiff of a banana inhaler may bring about pleasant feelings and even trigger a memory, and we don’t have the slightest idea why. This is not unusual. We do know, however, taht many study subjects said that using the odors made them feel good.

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