According to science, this is what you’re really smelling when you draw your nose closer to that new shirt, crisp peso bill, or a brand-new car.
Your sense of smell can trigger the most colorful reactions and bring back memories because it is tied to the brain’s center of emotions.
They can take you to places and relive memories in an instant, and because of this, researchers are trying to figure out how to make you buy by triggering your olfactory senses. Regardless, we all have the propensity for the smell of new things–new clothes,
What makes these distinct smells really addicting? Let’s turn to science for an explanation.
1. New books
There is nothing more satisfying than picking up a book and aerating its pages near your nose. According to Barns & Noble, books are made up of paper, adhesive, and ink. When these items degrade over time, they emit chemical compounds that are easily picked off by our noses. “The reason the smell is so appealing may be because it has a hint of vanilla,” they say. “The scientific explanation for the vanilla-ish scent is that almost all wood-based paper contains lignin, which is closely related to vanillin.”
2. Crisp bills
We all love money, no matter how they smell. But crisp peso bills coming straight out of an ATM is exceptionally a lot more satisfying. In an interview with Marketplace, Dr. Stuart Firestein of Columbia University’s Department of Biological Sciences said that while bills are basically made of cotton and linen, these materials have a very light smell and are too faint to be picked up by our senses. The culprit: ink. According to Dr. Firestein, “It’s primarily the ink rather than the paper in this particular case that gives off the odor.”
3. A car straight out of the showroom
No matter how addictive the smell of untainted leather and newly bonded plastic is, though, chemicals present in brand-new vehicles can cause potential harm to your body. Toyota United States color and trim manager Janis Ambrose told Gizmodo that “anything that is vinyl or plastic—the foam lamination on the seat surface, the plastic on the dash or on the door panel—it’s the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) coming out of them that causes that smell.” Unfortunately, some VOCs found in the smell of a new car is also present in paint thinners and other household cleaning products. Still, these compounds are lighter on the respiratory system than the smoke and dust that come with your daily commute.
4. New clothes
We love buying new clothes. We love wearing them and showing them off. We also love the smell wafting into the air after we take them out of the rack. Sometimes, the smell of our new clothes is too strong that a single wash cannot make it go away. According to an article published by the Healthy House Institute, “Many new clothing odors are due to the presence of chemicals that have been applied to the fibers. This may have occurred during the plant’s cultivation, or later during milling and manufacturing.” It could also be the smell of “bagong suweldo.”
Bonus: Bundles of joy
Who said that only new things smell nice? Cute, cuddly babies also have that distinct smell we just can’t get enough of. Strangely, no one, not even researchers, can pinpoint exactly why. An article on A+ magazine states that “the smell of newborns triggered dopamine release in the reward pathways of the brain—the same way ‘pleasure pathways’ affected by cocaine, food, and other stimuli evoke reward response.” It’s not baby powder or hypoallergenic soap, that’s for sure. –Dino Mari Testa