When you think of your five senses, there's always a tendency to think of sight and sound, maybe even taste but smell isn’t always on top of most people’s list. In fact, research at the University of York has shown that the accepted hierarchy of the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell—but may vary across cultures. But smell is important, as psychologist Andrew Wong tells us, it helps trigger memories, emotions and personalities.
To showcase the power of smell and its relation to our personality, Parfumerie Trésor—Hong Kong’s first and only artistic and niche perfume boutique opened in 2014—and Wong teamed up to offer a new perfume pairing service. The 16 Personalities, 16 Perfume service pairs you up with a perfume based on your personality.
In order to understand the psychology of perfumes and how it relates to smell and scent, Tatler Hong Kong chats with Wong to give us the lowdown on the relationship between personality and perfumes, how we can alter our personality using perfumes and how their service can help us find the best perfume for us.
What’s the most important thing that we should know about perfumes?
We all think of perfumes as an item that makes us smell great but in actuality, perfumes are much more than that. A perfume acts as the key to our olfactory memories, it is the most important invisible accessory that one can wear. Parfumerie Trésor often shares with me, that without perfume, your outfit is not complete. I absolutely agree with this as perfume can serve multiple purposes.
We often remember a person’s scent more so than via our visuals and sight. A scent can trigger different emotions and memories. A perfume can help elevate your existing persona and personality more, or it can aid in providing a side of you that is hidden but you very much want to show. A perfume helps develop an image that you want to present. Ultimately, the most important thing to know about perfumes is that they can provide a long-lasting memory of the image you portray and people will always remember you through scent.
Do perfumes really act as an invisible accessory to our personality?
When we talk about the relations between the five senses, memory and emotions, many studies have shown that scents are the most significant. For example, we have five million different scent related nerves connected to our brain—this is why our memories are made up of scent and what we call olfactory memories. Different scents that you smell in your everyday life can trigger different memories and even unlock forgotten memories that you have had stored away for a long time.
Certain scents that you smelt with a certain emotion, happy or sad can be triggered again when you are able to smell it again, so we will remember the person we met via their scent. This makes perfumes act as an invisible accessory to our personality.
Does a certain personality type have more affinity towards a certain perfume?
According to evolutionary psychology, all living organisms have two rules to live by survival and reproduction. These two rules are written into our DNA. Therefore, we will fight or flight when we are facing a harmful event, attack or threat. This is the same for smell, a negative smell, such as a dead animal, can trigger our reflex to take flight, on the other hand, a positive smell, such as fresh fruit or a roast chicken, can trigger a sense of security and friendliness.
Scent plays a huge role in olfactory memories but how we choose or have an affinity towards a certain perfume, we can’t explain scientifically. As such, we do not have an affinity towards different scents based on our personality type but we do lean on something that smells great and appealing to us.
See also: The Best Fragrances for Fall 2021