Smells Like Trouble

New research from Northwestern University shows that a single negative experience linked to an odor teaches us to discriminate against that and similar-smelling odors. While they discovered this in the lab by shocking research subjects with electricity when exposed to certain scents, I have experienced this firsthand, and I’m sure you have, too. When I was in high school, I dated a guy whose mother used a particular brand of detergent. Did no one else’s mothers use this detergent? I’m not sure, but his scent was truly special. I thought he smelled fine when we were going out, and then we had a messy breakup. Shortly after our relationship ended, my mother deviated from her regular brand of detergent. Maybe there was a sale at the grocery store, or maybe the store was out of her preferred detergent. Either way, we washed our clothes in this new detergent, and when I smelled my shirts, they didn’t not smell clean. They smell…of him. I thought I was going to be sick, and we had to wash all the clothes again. To this day, my mother knows not to buy that particular brand of detergent. [Northwestern University]