Written by Sean Heffernan

When you think of the five senses, your mind might leap first to your sense of sight and all the visual wonders you might behold. Perhaps you’re like me and usually think first with your stomach, placing taste at the top of your sense priority. However, you might be surprised at how important of a role your sense of smell plays in your day-to-day decisions, emotions, and memories.

Anyone who makes choices about business interiors should always remain conscious of how the space is experienced by smell. Whether it’s a retail space with customers, a hotel lobby with guests, or an office space with clients and employees, scents (both pleasing and off-putting) can make a big difference. Why is our sense of smell so important? Read below to discover 5 ways smell influences your everyday life.

1. Smell and Memory

Scent is the sense closest linked to memory. Studies have shown that people can remember a scent with 65% accuracy after 1 year while visual memory sinks to 50% after only a few months. The smells we experience play a crucial role in how we associate with memories and places. Have you ever come across a whiff of something that instantly takes you back to an old memory? Whether it reminds you of your mother’s cooking or a childhood trip to the ocean, a distinctive scent sinks into your brain and stays there. 

2. Smell and Emotion

Did you know that smell has a strong influence on the emotions we feel in our daily lives? The emotions we feel effect the way we relate to places and brands. Dr. Alan Hirsch has conducted countless research studies that explore the ways in which smell affects human behavior. “The part of the brain that smells and tastes is part of the emotional brain where our personality lies,” said Dr. Hirsch in an interview with Men’s Health last November. 

3. Smell and Time

Dr. Hirsch has also led studies into the way that smells can influence our perception of time. In one of the studies, 20 separate participants were exposed to a baby powder aroma, a coffee aroma, and no aroma at all. While the coffee aroma produced a reduced perception of time, the baby powder aroma produced a longer perception of time. Likewise, pleasurable fragrances have been shown to create “dwell-time” in stores, increasing the likelihood of customers making purchases. 

4. Smell and Health Care

Creating a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for patients is a challenge for every health care facility, be it large or small. For example, lavender fragrances have been used in nursing homes to calm residents and emergency rooms to calm worried visitors. Additionally, hospitals, treatment centers and nursing homes are prone to musky smells and malodors making it imperative that the facilities invest in a scenting solution. 

5. Smell and Productivity

Our senses of smell can even affect productivity in office environments. Specific smells have been found to increase alertness which in turn results in higher productivity rates. One study found that when lemon oil was diffused throughout a Japanese office building, productivity among data entry operators increased by 54%. Scents can also be used to ward off mid-afternoon brain fog by revving your concentration levels. 

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