Why Are Smells so Good at Triggering Memories?

Smells are really good at stirring up memories, especially ones from adolescence. Which is curious, because these memories are often the hardest to access. In the latest episode of SciShow, Hank Green reviews some of the research on why smells are such potent triggers of early memories.


“Smells tend to evoke early, perceptive memories of events, not concepts,” says Green. “So the scent of glue might make you remember playing with construction paper in Kindergarten, but your smell memory will not help you memorize Maxwell’s equations.” Speaking from my own experience, obviously, but perhaps this also explains why scent-based memories tend to be so visceral.


Contact the author at rtgonzalez@io9.com.



Sometimes when I eat a biscuit I get an intense limbic memory of standing in our childhood kitchen watching Marcel Proust’s mother do squat-thrusts. I should put less opium in my biscuits.