Many of us already listen to our guts. Now it may be time to listen to our noses as well. Regardless of their shape or size, most people’s noses are a lot smarter than previously thought and have a lot to tell us.
While it was generally believed that the human nose could detect approximately 10,000 different odors, a 2014 study has found that it can actually distinguish more than 1 trillion smells, though we may not be able to recognize them all since many of them “fall under of conscious radar,” according to Jessica Freiherr a neuroscientist at Germany’s RWTH Aachen University.
The reason for this, she explained, is that instead of going directly to our brain’s thalamus, olfactory nerves send their messages straight to cortical areas where they influence memories and emotions without our realizing it.
What the nose knows
While we all know how different aromas can affect our “appetites” when it comes to food, they also play an important role concerning the “appeal” (or not) in relationships with other people.
A person’s body odor can reveal a lot more about them, than just the fact that they may need to take a bath. Not only can it relate information concerning health issues (i.e. the presence of diseases such as diabetes and cancer), it can transmit information regarding someone’s emotional state such as fear or even elation and love.
Interestingly, these whiffs can prove contagious. For instance, Freiherr told Discovery Magazine that chemical signals from smelling the sweat of someone who is stressed out can trigger “alarm bells in the receiver’s left amygdala (the part of the brain where basic emotions are processed) causing a similar reaction even though they have not experienced the actual event themselves.”
Additional experiments conducted in Israel in 2015 also suggest that chemical traces left by handshakes (when sniffed within 30 seconds of contact) can provide multiple clues on individuals’ emotional state as well as whether or not there is a genetic compatibility for being potential love interests and/or mates.
This is also true when it comes to mother and infant bonding. Meanwhile, other studies by researchers in Sweden and Portugal discovered that an individual’s unique body odor could also help victims identify criminals, even when they did not get a good look at the perpetrator.
In fact, tests there found “witnesses” were able to accurately pinpoint suspects approximately 75% of the time just by the way they smelled This can include recognizing scents from the type of soap, shampoo and/or perfumes, etc. they wore.
Meanwhile, Johan Lunstrom of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, likened a person’s scent to a “fingerprint,” stating,“There is a large genetic component to body odor. Everybody’s smell is unique to himself or herself.”
Throwing one off the scent
From the beginning of time, humans have been aware of the fact that certain smells can influence the way we perceive one another, hence the use of flowers, perfumes and other scents to both disguise our individual body odor and enhance our appeal.
At the same time, scientists have found that certain scents can influence the way we view other people without them being physically present. Oddly, a recent experiment found that the smell of a grapefruit caused participants (who liked the aroma) to “knock off 12 years from actual ages when guessing how old women were from their photographs, while test subjects who inhaled spicy or floral scents perceived the pictured women as being 4 lbs slimmer.”