“The sense of smell can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back pictures as sharp as photographs of scenes that had left the conscious mind.” -- Thalassa Cruso
Fragrance can control your brain. Different scents may influence your actions and choices so quickly that it seems as though you are operating on instinct. It’s a powerful connection that many people underestimate or ignore. Carefully designed, signature fragrances change the way you perceive your environment and the people inside it. They may also alter your mood, emotions, and state of mind—effects that occur in just fractions of a second.
As written by physician and essayist Lewis Thomas: “Immediately at the moment of perception, you can feel the mind going to work, sending the odor around from place to place, setting off complex repertories through the brain, polling one center after another for signs of recognition, for old memories and old connection.”
At one time, this deep connection between the brain and fragrance was evolutionarily beneficial. A negative smell warned of danger and triggered our stress response. This was key to self-preservation and survival. Similarly, good scents like that of a warming fire, fresh air, or cooking food, made us feel more secure. These scents told us to relax, make friends, and rest.
Though our sense of smell may no longer be as essential to our survival, ingredients in fragrances still evoke strong and often dangerous emotional, physical, and mental symptoms.
Not long ago, scientists assured us that the blood-brain barrier protected the brain from chemicals floating in the air we breathe. More recent studies suggest that this may not be entirely true. In fact, what we thought was a barrier actually allows many environmental toxins inside the brain, particularly those associated with artificial fragrances and scented products. With direct access to our brains, not only can these fragrances affect our behavior, but they can become stored, continuing to control us for decades before there are finally detoxed.
As explored in a previous blog, contact with chemical fragrance may lead to inflammation—associated with serious brain disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Other side effects include disruption of our hormones, leading to emotional turmoil. Fragrances can take a healthy brain and make it dysfunction. Individuals may experience mood swings, depression, and generalized anxiety.
Even when nothing appears to be wrong, the fragrances can make you feel tired, rundown, and out of sorts. What’s especially scary is that you don’t have to be able to smell the scent in order for it to control your brain, and this isn’t the only dangerous effect of fragrance.
Other individuals may use fragrance to trick you into perceiving them as being more attractive. In essence, it can override our sense of stranger danger, letting down our defenses or trusting too deeply or too quickly.
Retailers too are widely using signature scents to control your brain. They manipulate the way their shops smell to get customers to make a deeper connection to the brand and shopping experience. They call this sensory marketing and olfactive branding. Studies in this field show that fragrance affects the way we make judgements and perceive our environment. Retailer’s know fragrances that trigger positive memories and emotions make us more likely to make a purchase.
As a report from Psychology Today reveals, “the capacities for both smell and emotion are rooted in the same network of brain structures, the limbic system. The olfactory center also interacts directly with the hippocampus, a brain area involved in the formation of new memories.”
The signature fragrances that make you more likely to make a purchase at a store and affect your perception of a new acquaintance also trigger positive memories that keep you coming back for more.
This happens with our own perfume choices as well. At times people are unaware that fragrance is causing severe physical and mental health symptoms, and so they keep spraying. Scent addiction is real and powerful.
Next time you notice that your choices are straying from what is rational, stop and consider whether your brain is being controlled by the fragrances in the air.
For personalized guidance on locating and releasing stress, schedule a phone consultation.
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What To Remember:
Fragrance controls your brain by manipulating your behavior through perception.
Scents that evoke positive emotions can be addictive and dangerous to your health.
Being mindful of the scents in your environment is the first step to breaking the cycle.
Marshall, Jack (2016). Scent Branding, Mind-Control, and Ethics. Retrieved from EthicsAlarms.com.
PT Staff (2007). The Hidden Force of Fragrance: Boost your health and mood by surrounding yourself with pleasant scents. Retrieved from Psychology Today.
Sowndhararajan, Kandhasamy & Kim, Songmun (2016). Influence of Fragrances on Human Psychophysiological Activity: With Special Reference to Human Electroencephalographic Response. Retrieved from National Center For Biotechnology Information.
William, Rose Marie (2004). Fragrance Alters Mood and Brain Chemistry.(Health Risks and Environmental Issues). Retrieved from ThePowerHour.com.
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