Years ago, I recall learning about the smell and memory connection in dental school. It fascinated me that there is such a strong associative link between the two.
What is the connection? Why is this so powerful? Jonah Lehrer blogged about this on National Geographic's scienceblogs.com, discussing Smell and Memory.
“Why is smell so sentimental? One possibility, which is supported by this recent experiment, is that the olfactory cortex has a direct neural link to the hippocampus. In contrast, all of our other senses (sight, touch and hearing) are first processed somewhere else – they go to the thalamus – and only then make their way to our memory center. This helps explain why we're so dependent on metaphors to describe taste and smell.”
We have all had this experience in our lives and it usually is about a food smell that takes us back to our childhoods. In our professional lives we know this to be true too.
How many times have our patients said that it “smells like a dental office?” Hopefully they have a positive memory trigger from this specific category of smells. Our patient's impressions of our practices begin from the moment they open your front door. Almost all of us put a great deal of time and effort into the look of our waiting rooms, but what about the smell?
Does your waiting area smell like a dental office or does it smell of another scent that will be more pleasing? It is something to think about given this smell memory connection.
Don't believe me? Give the following a try for yourself: Years ago I decided to put this to the test and I purchased a new bottle of cologne (one I had not worn before) when I went on a significant vacation. To this day whenever I wear certain scents I am immediately transported back to those happy memories.