More research on the differences in our scent perception

A recent article in Inside Science describes more evidence that people experience scents differently. (Perfume In Progress has followed this research topic for a number of years; you can find a series of posts about it by searching for the #genetics tag on our posts.)

In this experiment, researchers broke the common smell of potato chips into three main aromatic molecules that smell like rotten cabbage, roasted potato, and toast when they are sniffed individually. When the three molecules are combined in the right ratio, they smell like potato chips. The researchers measured each person’s sensitivity to each molecule, which varied widely; people could be “tens of thousands of times” more sensitive to one molecule than to another, and each person had a unique sensitivity profile. Despite these different sensitivities to the individual components, three of four people could identify the mixture as potato chips based on their previous experience with eating potato chips. The article says, “Most of us know a potato chip when we sniff it. But at the chemical level, a new study shows, our noses smell quite different things.”

An article from 2013 described a study that found a 30% difference in people’s scent receptors in their noses, showing that genes play a role in why we have these different sensitivities to aroma molecules. The article says, “The human nose contains 400 different olfactory receptors – and Dr Mainland’s team found that changing a single receptor could dramatically change the way a person perceives a smell.”

Just something to think about when you discuss perfume with your friends! 🙂

About Laurie E

artisan perfumer and owner of Sonoma Scent Studio
This entry was posted in Perfume General and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to More research on the differences in our scent perception

  1. Pingback: Why You Don’t Smell What I Smell – Serenity Now

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