Quirks & Quarks

Your sense of smell doesn't stink

A long-standing belief that humans have a terrible sense of smell is just not true.
Our sense of smell is far more powerful than we've been led to believe. (István Bencsik)

Freshly cut grass, a bouquet of lavender, cigar smoke, a crackling fire. These scents are unmistakable. And most of us have no problem identifying their particular aroma.  

But for the most part, humans don't have a great sense of smell, compared to say, a dog, or a rat or other wild animals, that rely heavily on their sense of smell for survival.

Or so we've been led to believe. 

Dr. John McGann's lab focuses on how our brains understand the sensory world around us. His work on the rodent olfactory system prompted him to dig deeper into the scientific research on the human olfactory system. He says the notion that humans have a poor sense of smell is a long-standing myth, and that there's plenty of evidence that smell is as crucial to humans as the rest of our senses. His report was published in Science: Poor human olfaction is a 19th-century myth