QUCK SNIFF: Is perfume really just an animal thing?

“Eighty percent of love is smell” — Tom Robbins

It’s pretty common (isn’t it?) to think of our olfactory sense as somehow baser and more animalistic than, say, vision. Maybe partly because we are so close to snuffling animal familiars — dogs who seem driven and guided more by snout than eyes — we think of scent as more animalistic. Maybe it is because we imagine scent to “reside” in the reptilian recesses of our brain, springing or slithering into action, apparently unbidden by the gray matter on the top floor. Who hasn’t felt physically sucked in by the magnetic odor of a loved one’s neck? And who hasn’t been involuntarily pulled back to a previous decade by the wafting aroma of spice, fresh snow, or new pencils?

I’m curious: Do you think our sense of smell really is somehow baser and more animalistic than other senses? Are there some perfumes that you experience as plugging in that animalistic sense than others? On the other hand, is it possible that this is partly a myth about how scent actually works? Given how much variability there is across cultures and places among we human animals, how much of what we love and hate about scents is a result of socialization?

Comment below if you’re so inclined.

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