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Smell – a function of a person’s expectations, rather than reality

Sense of smell

Sense of smell

The suggestion that an ingredient is present can trigger a person’s brain to imagine the smell is real even without the smell being present.

Several Seagate topical products use fish oil with omega-3’s as an important ingredient. It helps to soften the skin, protect it from rashes and even reduce wrinkles. It is also a very difficult ingredient to control.  We quickly learned that if you state that the fish oil ingredient is present in a product, we could trigger the brain into believing that it is smelling the fish.  In order to be able to incorporate fish oil into topical products, it required a lot of years of testing, experimentation, and use.

We discovered this phenomenon 15 years ago when we were developing the Smooth Skin. Initially, we were having difficulty controlling the fish smell. There are different rates of absorption of the oil ingredients (Vitamin E, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil and Omega-3 Fish Oil). The fish oil absorbed last. So you can imagine the initial results — some of the group of people testing the product really did end up smelling mildly like a fish for 24 hours. However, their skin really became soft and smooth.  Having women with softened wrinkles smelling like sardines would not have become a successful product.

In order to learn more about smells and the perception of smell, we ran another test.  We made a new batch entirely without the fish oil ingredient, using different mixers and tanks so that there was no chance of residual smell and gave it out to the test group of women, bearing a label that indicated that the fish oil was still an ingredient though actually not being used.  Almost all the women complained that their skin smelled like fish.  After explaining afterwards what we did, the women retested it and no longer sensed any fish smell.

We concluded that smell can sometimes be a function of a person’s expectations and imagination, not necessarily based upon reality … although to them it definitely seemed to be real.  A lot of the sensation of smell is really created in your mind not in your nose.

Okay, we just could not resist this example below. Maybe the worst job in the world.  These lab techs would have had gotten different results had they first been blindfolded.

Photo credit: Ninian Reed @ Flickr Commons

Photo credit: Ninian Reed @ Flickr Commons

Of course, there is this other part of the world where our sense of smell is completely neutralized by seawater and a face mask. The animals that live in the ocean have very sensitive smell receptors, to help find food and to help from becoming someone elses food.  The Nurse Shark in the photo is turning around to order make another close pass hoping for a handout. This shark was small, less than 5 feet in length. They are distinguished by the two dorsal fins on their backs.  The diver taking the photo cannot detect any smells in the ocean while underwater.

Belize Nurse Shark

Belize Nurse Shark

 

 

 

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