Perfume Psychology: 5 Common Ways People Can Perceive Scents


Perfumes are popular products due to their ability to express their identity through scents. Since it is a mix of scented materials, people perceive it as a unified complex through all of our senses, not only our sense of smell. However, even if we all experience smelling perfumes, our minds translate what we smell differently from perceiving the scents. But how do people perceive odors? Here’s how.

1. Chemically 

Scientifically, a scent can be perceived by the human nose into separate components according to the molecules that make up that scent. Like any other smell, the brain translates them as a unified whole due to the interaction of the different molecules that make up the scent as they interact with the olfactory receptors in the nose. The process is still a mystery as it is similar to the perception of color instead of vision, in which the different shades of colors translate as a unified whole. 

2. Artistically

The scent is a popular artistic medium as it can be perceived through a sense that is different from the other senses. The ability to see, hear, and touch is part of the other senses. But while we can also smell, the scent is a distinct sense. Therefore, it opens the door for artistic expression as different people perceive smells differently. Artistic perception is more prevalent in perfumes that have their scents interpreted by the scent producer, which is the perfumer. 

3. Socially

The social aspect of scent may be more difficult to perceive as so many aspects of smell make up its social effects. Nevertheless, some elements are perceivable by people. One of them is the feeling of belonging. A community of people likes to wear the same scent and probably the most common social aspect of the smell. 

4. Through Culture 

Culture also plays an essential role in the perception of scent. People from different parts of the world have their scent preferences because their culture has influenced the kind of scents that they prefer to be associated with. Some cultures, for example, use scent for religious rituals and ceremonies. Therefore, the scents involved in this cultural practice will be part of the culture.

5. Metaphorically 

Due to its unique ability to influence the other senses, scent can be a metaphor for other, non-scent-related things. We can use the analogy of scent to describe something hard to describe. The most common example is the smell of success. There is a metaphor for this: success has a distinct scent.

People use scents to express the feeling of a place or a person. For example, a storm or a wind is often described through scent, which is a metaphor for the effect of the natural phenomenon—the same applies to people. The perfume tells the wearer's story and is a way to express one’s identity through scent.


People can perceive scents in many ways. They can use chemical, artistic, social, cultural, and metaphorical factors to decipher and associate scents to other things. Perceiving scents also can affect our mood, changing how we see things around us. From the responses of the five senses to their chemical composition, smell is a complex thing that can be perceived in many ways.

Alexandria Fragrances is the leading seller of perfumes inspired by the top brands in the market like Jo Malone, Victoria’s Secret, and Chanel. Our goal is to produce fragrances that remind people of their designer favorites for a more affordable deal. Check out our products today or buy a gift card for friends and family through our website.
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