When Bowie sang about American youth in 1975, he probably didn’t realize that their carefree ignorance extended to their sense of smell. According to a recent study by a Dutch researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Radboud University, olfactory knowledge varies significantly from culture to culture and generation to generation. Read this lovely New York Times article by TM Luhrmann. For some of the team’s publications check out Prof. Majid’s site and Prof. Levinson’s site.
Of the global study groups, Americans had great difficulty identifying common smells like cinnamon or turpentine. Younger people across the globe also had a more limited smell vocabulary than their elder compatriots. The good news is that training your nose is possible. Memory games can help individuals build their personal scent database. Simply smelling more things and paying attention to odors in general will help. Get ideas here on OlfactiveInstitute.com.