Smell: The Secret Seducer
The origin and history of the sense of smell
Making a case for the reevaluation of smell
The human sense of smell has always been rated below sight and hearing. Plato labelled it animal and Freud associated it with the anal phase; Rousseau on the other hand called the sense of smell the sense responsible for memory and desire. In this entertaining book the writers make a case for a heightened appreciation of smell. They show how the nose works and what goes to make up smells, they explain the relationship between stimulus and perception, the differences between individuals’ perceptions of smell, the influence smell has on illness and healing, and the significance of perfumes.
In Verborgen verleider Piet Vroon once again exploits his lucid writing style to combine scientific research with speculative theories. The book is crammed with fascinating hitherto unknown facts. In particular the association of disorders of the sense of smell with serious illnesses is illuminating. According to former beliefs, each disease has its own smell and aromatic substances have a beneficial effect on particular illnesses. Inversely, as the authors now reveal, many diseases have a devastating effect on the sense of smell and a diminished sense of smell can be a first sign of illness.
Most olfactory stimuli remain subconscious; they are ‘secret seducers. The sense of smell is located in that area of the brain where the human will has the least influence. The majority of its connections within the brain are to primitive centres at a lower evolutionary level that control our emotions. As a result, smell has long been considered the sense responsible for lust, desire and passion – what many consider the bestial side of mankind. However the sense of smell is not only essential for the functioning of the sense of taste, it also influences motivation, learning processes and sexual behaviour, in fact, it influences our behaviour in general. Although it’s true that the scientific investigation of smell is still in its infancy, this book’s great achievement is that it places the many blank spaces firmly within a solid overall perspective.