Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars A rare gem, a true quality work of non-fiction, a guided tour of the world of our sense of smell., February 5, 2012
This review is from: What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life (Hardcover)
This is an excellent work of popular science. The author, Avery Gilbert, is a sensory psychologist with decades of experience working for multinational fragrance companies. He takes us on a tour of the entire world of the sense of smell. Odors are perceptions, and what goes on inside our heads matters more than what happens to enter our noses. We learn a lot about the sense of smell here. Only a small fraction of the multitude of chemicals that we breathe in makes a difference in odor perception. Having a "good" nose is more a matter of practice and experience than the actual odor receptors in the nose. There are certain psychological factors that influence how one perceives an odor (adaptation, expectations, information bias). Human evolution has been driven by the fact that cooking releases nutrients and odors, and the genes for odor receptors related to smell are still evolving. A dog has better "distance" smell, but close up, humans' sense of smell is just as good. And so on.

The author shows the great amount of research that he's done by giving us the story behind attempts to use smell in cinema (Smell-O-Vision and AromaRama and OdorRama), and also in how he debunks myths held even today by psychologists interested in this facet of human perception. We see how smells are being used in marketing efforts, and how companies try to get us to buy more by applying odors to the retail environment. The author knows his subject matter intimately, and he projects a good sense of humor at times. This book is well-written, and the kind of book you would want to re-visit for a second and third reading.

The last chapter, "Our Olfactory Destiny", did seem a bit awkward and rushed. In addition, it would have been nice to have had illustrations or even color photo plates. Nevertheless, a great book, a real gem. Five stars. John V. Karavitis, Karavitis, Karavitis
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