Might the scent of memories past smell like teen spirit?

Thursday, 26 January, 2012

When certain smells evoke certain memories, usually from our distant past, it’s called the “Proustian phenomenon”, named after French novelist Marcel Proust, who died in 1922. But how effective are smells, or odours, when compared to other “triggers”, such as music, in the recalling of memories?

“It could be argued that a necessary implication of the Proust phenomenon is that odours are more effective triggers of emotional memories than other-modality triggers,” the researchers said. “Under such strong assumptions the results reported here do not confirm the Proust phenomenon. Nonetheless, our findings do extend previous research by demonstrating that odour is a stronger trigger of detailed and arousing memories than music, which has often been held to provide equally powerful triggers as odours.”

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