How smells influence emotions, memories and behaviour

by Polly in Did you know?

April 16, 2024

6 minutes to read

While every sense plays a crucial role in our daily lives, let's shift our focus to the profound impact of scent.

The sense of smell plays a role in our lives and directly influences our perceptions and actions in many ways. Imagine entering a home and being welcomed by the smell of baking cookies that instantly stimulate memories of your childhood house or at least your perception of a loving home. You quickly experience a sense of safety and belonging.

Your sense of smell has a unique way of triggering your memories and evoking emotions. The psychological phenomenon is also recognised and strategically used in the business world.

The science behind smell

The Olfactory System is the sensory system used for smelling (olfaction) and is one of the special senses that directly associate with other organs. Humans and animals have a main olfactory system and also an accessory olfactory system, where the main detects airborne substances and the accessory senses fluid stimuli.

The olfactory system is linked to the brain's limbic system, which controls memories and emotions. When we smell a specific scent, it can cause a rollercoaster of emotions and trigger different responses that take us back to a specific time, place, or emotional state associated with that particular smell.

One scientist, Venkatesh Murthy, once said that "smell is nothing without taste." He made an example: when you eat chocolate and vanilla ice cream and pinch your nose, you won't be able to taste flavours; "all you can taste is sweet."

Science has shown us that smells can significantly impact our mood and behaviour. For instance, the lavender scent is widely associated with relaxing energy and calmness, while fresh citrus smells can produce feelings of energy and vitality. More importantly, certain smells can trigger vivid memories, like smelling someone or something you associate with a childhood trauma.

Scents and smells at casinos

The gambling industry has continuously sought ways to attract more players. The online casino world focuses mainly on visuals and no-limit accessibility. 

On the other hand, for land-based casinos, one primary method they use that works is scents. Using the power of smell, casinos try to make players more positive and enhance the overall experience, which keeps players in their seats and ultimately means more revenue.

Scent marketing, or "olfactory branding," is not unique to the casino industry but has been used successfully in various sectors, including retail, hospitality, and entertainment.

Dawn Goldworm, co-founder of an olfactive branding company, said, "The more you use your nose, the stronger it gets." Among most of Goldworm's customers, Nike stands out. She explains that they used the scent of rubber basketball sneakers as they scraped across the court, which evoked customers' memories.

However, casinos have taken scents to a whole new level when they realise the impact it has on players' emotions and behaviours.

Creating the perfect atmosphere

When you enter a casino, you are almost immediately greeted by a carefully selected blend of scents scientifically designed to improve your experience. Some of the fragrances used in casinos are vanilla and jasmine, which create a sense of luxury and sophistication.

Casinos use different scents in various areas within the venue to stimulate specific emotions. In the gaming areas, casinos usually use scents with energising properties, like citrus or peppermint, to keep players engaged.

In contrast, in relaxation areas or hotels, they use soothing scents, like chamomile, to stimulate feelings of comfort.

Sniff the psychology

The significance of scent-based marketing in casinos can be associated with several psychological principles, one of which is the concept of priming. Casinos can use scents to prime players to feel more relaxed and focused and boost their mood to gamble. When a player wins big at a casino, the scent they used at that specific time may trigger positive memories for that player, increasing their likelihood to return.

Studies have shown that certain smells can lead individuals to underestimate the passage of time. Scents can ultimately influence our perception of time, creating a distorted sense of reality that stimulates us to play for prolonged periods.

Using scent as a marketing tool in casinos emphasises the great impact that smells can have on humans' emotions, memories, and behaviour. Casinos aim to improve the overall experience of players by using fragrances. These tactics also raise some ethical concerns regarding their potential to manipulate the behaviour of players and that it positively contributes to gambling addiction.

The goal is to balance chasing profits and promoting responsible gambling for all.

Facts about odours

Now that we understand the bigger picture let's look at some interesting facts about our wonderful sense of smell.


We, as humans, release chemical signals called pheromones, which influence attraction and social dynamics. While their direct effect on human behaviour is still being investigated, they are known to play an important role in animal behaviour, including mating rituals and territorial marking.

Think about it: when we stress, we sweat. The smell of sweat is thought to be caused by the release of certain stress-related chemicals through sweat glands.

Did you know that dogs are believed to be able to detect these fear-related scents in humans?

Individual olfactory signatures

Each person has a unique scent, known as their “olfactory fingerprint.” This signature scent is determined by genes, lifestyle choices, diet, and, most importantly, personal hygiene.

Some researchers suggest that personality traits may impact a person's scent choices. For instance, individuals with more extroverted personalities may prefer bold, stimulating scents, while introverted ones may lean more towards softer, comforting fragrances.

Odour hedonics

The pleasantness or unpleasantness of a smell is personal and varies considerably among people and cultures.

Odour hedonics explains why some people enjoy the smell of gasoline and others find the smell of freshly cut grass amazing. Cultural factors, past experiences, and personal connections are essential in shaping our perception of odours.

Olfactory fatigue

Our sense of smell can quickly become desensitised to continuous exposure to the same odour. Olfactory fatigue, or odour adaption, means that we may stop noticing a scent after smelling it for long periods.

This is the reason why someone who smokes cigarettes can’t smell cigarette smoke in a house, but when you leave for holiday and return, you can almost immediately smell it.

The sense of smell

As we delved into the exciting world of smell and looked at some of the facts that highlight the importance of this overlooked sense, it is clear that it plays a huge role in our lives.

As our knowledge of smell grows, so does our appreciation for its role in shaping our perceptions and behaviours. The sense of smell is a path to a world of sensory wonder.

Article by Polly

CasinoWow Contributor

Hey guys, my name is Polina but my friends and colleagues call me Polly. I am truly passionate about online casino gaming and exploring the different online gambling experiences. I'm really into diving deep into topics and researching all the details. My aim is to gather the best information and write interesting articles for all the readers at CasinoWow.

Anything incorrect or missing?

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