Our sense of smell is an evolutionary tool and all creatures from single-celled bacteria to bloodhounds can identify chemicals around them. The American Psychological Association (APA) explains “Odors are molecules, and olfaction is just the vertebrate version of chemical sensing. But can smell affect our mood and behavior? 

According to Rachel S. Herz, an assistant professor of psychology at Brown University and author of The Scent of Desire, discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell believes the answer is yes. She explains that odors do affect people’s mood, their work performance, and also their behavior in a variety of ways but it isn’t because odors work on us like a drug, smell, instead works on us through our experiences with them. 

An odor can create a response only when we have associated a past event with that smell first. This process is called associative learning, where one event is linked to another due to past experiences. Once the association is established, the linked event can generate a conditioned response in reaction to the original event.

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