You’ve probably heard this factoid: Smell is the sense that is closest to memory. And it’s true, long-term memory, emotions, and scent are processed in the same part of the brain.
“You actually experience the sense of smell: It triggers our emotions and the memories before you’re able to actually process the actual experience,” says Yang. “So here is no immediate processing—the processing actually happens after the fact, right? When then your brain lights up, how you are experiencing it or how you then translate what you’re experiencing and being able to put that into words, it’s actually tied to your cultural experiences.”
And these memories and cultural associations should play a role in how you find your fragrances. Think about it: You are going to, ideally, wear this scent regularly—you want to make sure that it evokes pleasant moods and thoughts.
“Before it’s actually absorbed and translated to a specific mood or memory in your brain, you are already on the train that you can’t get off,” says Yang. “You can be in the middle of a conversation, but you can’t seem to get off this train, you cannot continue the conversation because your entire brain process gets suddenly interrupted because of memory or some kind of emotion has been triggered.”