How Different Types of Scent Can Influence Emotions and Behavior


This is a guest post by Catherine Stewart.

Fragrances have been around since time immemorial. History reveals that people during the Bronze Age are the first ones to try perfume making. It was also widely used by the elite Ancient Egyptians who distilled fragrances from lily and attar.

Later on, the Mesopotamians created their own fragrances using sophisticated distillation methods.

Fast forward to the recent day, perfume has become one of the most in-demand products in the market. In the USA alone, 92 percent of women wear fragrances, and 41 percent wear perfume every day.

This is why cologne and perfume manufacturers and retailers in and out of the US have a broad market within their reach.

But why are fragrances so darn popular?

Why do people bother spending hundreds of dollars just to have a bottle of Eau de Parfum or Eau de Toilette? Is there a scientific explanation for this obsession?

The Science of Fragrances

Most of the time, the nose is the most overlooked sensory organ. While the human nose may not be as powerful as the dog nose which has 300 million receptors, it can still discern as much as one trillion scents.

The nose collects scent molecules every time we breathe. These odor particles then dissolve into the nasal cavity membrane and pass through the nasal hair structures called cilia. The signals created in the cilia is then forwarded to the brain via the olfactory bulb.

The brain perceives the scent, associates an old memory or creates a new one, and triggers an emotional response.

This sensory process explains why you feel warm and fuzzy inside when you smell something that reminds you of home or why you think of Christmas when you get a whiff of chocolates, pine, and mint.

Scent influences the human mind and emotions in more ways than you think.

How Scent Can Evoke Memories and Influence Decisions

Notice how a simple scent of burning paper warn you of danger or a floral perfume make you feel more energized and refreshed?

It’s so easy to associate both negative and positive responses and trigger formation or retrieval of memories when you smell something while walking around, working in the office or doing other things.

This effect is explained by the Proust Memory theory which suggests that memories formed using any of the sensory organs are the most colorful of all.

Proustian memories are triggered by even the tiniest sensory stimuli such as the perfume worn by your mother every day when you were young or the smell of freshly baked pie you eat during spring.

The theory explained among the five senses, the sense of smell is the most effective in evoking memories. Even the faintest smell can effectively trigger the richest and most vibrant memories and emotions.

This may explain why many people desire to use fragrances. It may also explain the uneasiness felt when you leave the house without spraying your go-to perfume. Some even believe that scent plays a crucial role in attracting a person or getting the results that you want.


Because of the psychological benefits, one can gain from spraying or dabbing a few drops of perfume on the skin, it’s perfectly understandable why people are quite picky in choosing the fragrances they should use.

Some wear a specific scent for work, daily use, and special events.

For example, women usually opt for a clean and light floral scent for everyday use. For evening events, strong fragrances with liquor-like undertones are mostly preferred.

Others choose from more than five bottles of perfume depending on their current mood or what they hope to achieve from an interview, meeting or even a date.

The #1 Consumer of Fragrances in the World

It’s definitely no secret that women are the biggest fan of fragrances in the world. Thanks to billions of women who constantly demand to have the finest scent, perfume brands that manufacture the best perfume for women like Chanel, Estee Lauder, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, and Estee Lauder earn billions of dollars in profit each year.

The highest grossing perfumes include:

  • Neroli Portofino
  • Chanel No. 5
  • J’adore
  • Chloe
  • La Tulipe
  • Mon Guerlain
  • Molecule 1
  • Coco Mademoiselle
  • Chance
  • Amazing Grace
  • Daisy
  • Light Blue

How to Choose Perfume the right way

Finding the perfect perfume for an occasion depends a lot on fully understanding the basic terminologies used in perfume-making: 

Absolutes – These are pure oils and extracts deduced from vegetable or flowers. Compared to all the perfume or essences sold in the market, absolutes such as concentrated rose extract costs the most money.

Eau de Toilette – It’s made by mixing roughly four to eight percent of absolutes with alcohol. It’s ideally for people with oily skin or for individuals who want to wear mild fragrances.

Eau de Parfum – it contains more absolute compared to the Eau de Toilette. If you’d check the label, you’d find that the product contains roughly 17 percent absolute essences. It also contains portions of oil and alcohol.

Eau de Cologne – Unlike the Eau de Toilette or the Eau de Parfum, this type of fragrance is lighter and contains smaller amounts of absolute. It works great for daily use but you may need to reapply after a few hours because its fragrance dissipates quickly.

Perfume – This type of fragrances contains the highest amount of absolute. It also contains larger amounts of oil to keep the scent long-lasting.

Aside from understanding the meaning of fragrance labels, knowing more about your fragrance families is also crucial in selecting the right scent.


Families are categorized according to their scent characteristics. According to experts, there are four basic fragrance families used in making feminine fragrances namely:

  • Fresh/Floral – It’s the most frequently used scent in women perfumes. Such type of fragrance will remind you of smelling a bouquet of tulips, roses, carnation, orange blossoms, lavender and chamomile.
  • Spicy/Oriental – The oriental scent comes from traditional Far East Asian spices such as star anise, cinnamon, capers, cardamom, and juniper berries. This scent will also remind you of burning incense and plant resins. 
  • Fresh/Fruity/Citrus – This type of scent is commonly used in making cologne or Eau de Toilette. However, they’re sometimes combined with floral undertones to produce a complex scent. Essences extracted from oranges, lemons, peaches, apples and grapefruit are often used to make citrus fragrances.
  • Chypre/Woody – Wood plants with a strong and musky smell such as bergamot, oak, pine and patchouli are often used to create woody or chypre essences.

To find the right type of fragrance that will fit your personality or suit your taste, we recommend using the terminologies discussed above as and considering what sort of scent you prefer to wear.

When you shop around for a perfume or any type of fragrances, spray a small amount on the card and get a whiff of it. Wait for a few seconds and smell it again. If you’re still happy with the scent after the second smell test, you can proceed to purchase a bottle. Otherwise, you should move on to a new brand or variant.

We also recommend considering the type of skin that you have. Oiler skin types should use alcohol-based fragrances, while drier skin types must go for oil-based products instead.

Our last professional tip is to shop for perfumes later in the day. This way you can effectively assess whether or not the perfume really suits you.

Whatever type of fragrance you choose at the end of the day, we know for sure that it will create a lasting impression on everyone you meet. Hopefully, you get to associate positive emotions to your signature scent so people you meet will have good things to think about if they ever smell your scent somewhere.

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13 thoughts on “How Different Types of Scent Can Influence Emotions and Behavior

  1. This was very interesting. I used to wear “Knowing” by Estee Lauder … it was not a heavy scent and I did not use it liberally (didn’t want a headache quite honestly). A fellow staff member who sat nowhere near me, complained to our H.R. person that my cologne rendered her unable to concentrate and I was asked not to wear it anymore. So I didn’t. But I resented her doing that – other women wore scents and they were not overpowering. Go figure. She left a few months after that hoopla and went to another law firm.

    Liked by 1 person

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