Making Light of the Dark Side

I have, in the past, written a blog post making fun of the work of our nice-words-for-hire brethren: the PR agents. In an industry such as photography, where much of what could be classed as news comes directly from a handful of large companies, there is inevitably a symbiotic relationship between PR practitioners and news gatherers – we have no news without them and they have no coverage without us. Maintaining the proper level of editorial integrity demands we remember that, though we are fellow writers, they have chosen to use their powers for evil.

But some days they make it rather easy to maintain the necessary levels of cynicism about their output. So with all apologies to the person tasked with trying to drum-up a little press interest, I give you a press release that arrived in our inboxes today:

ALMOST HALF OF BRITS CAN SMELL A MEMORY IN A PHOTOGRAPH

XXX research reveals Britain’s most memorable scents

24th March 2010: Brits are so in tune with their senses that they can recall the smell associated with a scene or location – just by looking at a photo of it. That’s according to research released by XXX today to celebrate the launch of its new range of XXX compact cameras, which capture memories in more vivid detail than ever before.

The study, which was conducted across 23 countries, revealed that 47% of Brits can remember the scent associated with a photograph, while just under a quarter said they would actively take a picture of something based purely on the way it smells. The results also show that British women are more likely to pay attention to the scent of their surroundings when taking a picture than men, with over a quarter stating they would capture a photograph of something that smells appealing – for example a rose garden.
Commenting on the research, Dr Rachel Herz, a leading world expert in the psychological science of scent and Professor at Brown University, said: “This research shows just how powerful the link between our memories and the sense of smell really is. While a photograph can visually remind us of a particular moment in time, if it is accompanied by scent it will elicit even more emotional and evocative memories – more than any other memory trigger.”

When asked to rate a list of scents that were most likely to trigger a memory, over 53% of Brits named the smell of freshly cut grass as their top ‘Memory Scent’, with the smell of sunscreen and baby talc coming in at second and third.

Britain’s top 5 scents of a memory:

  1. Freshly cut grass – childhood sports days and playing football
  2. Sunscreen – the beach and summer holidays
  3. Baby talc – newborn baby
  4. Candy Floss – carnivals / fairgrounds
  5. Farmyard – time spent on a farm or in the countryside

Referring to the results, Dr Herz said: “For many years scientists have conducted research into the link between our senses and our ability to recall memories. My research shows that our sense of smell in particular has a uniquely intimate and direct connection with the area of the brain that controls emotional memory. It’s not surprising that so many people chose freshly cut grass and sunscreen as their top memory scents, as these aromas are strongly associated with childhood - the time when our first scent memories are being formed. For many, any scents associated with childhood – such as the smell of a hot summer’s day in the fairground – have a particularly strong ability to trigger an emotional memory that takes them back to their youth.”

XXX XXX, Product Manager for Consumer Products at XXX, comments: “While a photograph is the ultimate way to capture and document life’s most precious memories, we wanted to try something a little different and see whether there was another factor involved in remembering a certain moment in time. This research into the scents associated with memories shows that not only do Europeans have an amazing ability to remember certain scenes and locations based on scents and smells, the majority also make a conscious effort to maximise the power of these memories for themselves.”

“Our new range of XXX compact cameras can capture memories better than ever before – although they don’t quite capture smell just yet, they certainly evoke it!,” he adds.

Comments

Total comments: 6
afsheenaziz
By afsheenaziz (Jul 18, 2012)

It's only a matter of time before art students everywhere start exhibiting photos with a scratchpad. Just no farmyard scents please, we can do without that :)

0 upvotes
santaman
By santaman (Sep 16, 2011)

It does work I took pics at a sewage farm years ago poo even thinking about it brings it all back.
To be more serious sounds can also triger off smells and sights.
I will end on a stupid note imagine smellyvision TV what would a political broadcast smell like ?

0 upvotes
nico517
By nico517 (Sep 8, 2011)

I would like to know how many people were actually in the studies rather than just how many countries were involved. This seems like a very grasping at straws press release, we all know that photos evoke reactions and emotions from people, and it isn't very surprising that people will associate smells with the type of scenes that are given as examples here.
Also it would be interesting to see the photos used in the study, they would have to be very specific I think. Or they are personal photos that people have been asked about in which case it doesn't seem very well controlled or useful data to me.

0 upvotes
Julio
By Julio (Sep 1, 2011)

Hmm.. this reminds me of the upcoming Spy Kids 4D movie: "Apparently in Spy Kids 4D you get the 4th dimension of ‘aromasope’ where you can smell things which sounds cool till you find out it involves being handed a card you sniff."

It's only a matter of time before art students everywhere start exhibiting photos with a scratchpad. Just no farmyard scents please, we can do without that :)

0 upvotes
pbolli
By pbolli (Sep 1, 2011)

OK. Let's name names here. No hiding behind XXX. This was Nikon. Do a search on the text leaving out the XXX.

0 upvotes
Philippe R
By Philippe R (Sep 1, 2011)

There's a psychological aspect to all act in our life, photography is no derogation to that aspect...
I'd be interested to know how different populations, both geographical and ethnical, would react to certain type of photography.
To be followed...

1 upvote
Total comments: 6