Cover Psychologist Andrew Wong (Photo: Affa Chan/Tatler Hong Kong)

Did you know that perfumes can help alter our personality, trigger certain emotions as well as memories? Psychologist Andrew Wong gives us the lowdown on the relationship between our personality and perfumes

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.

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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.

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Can you tell us more about the 16 personalities, 16 perfumes service at Parfumerie Trésor?

The authors of the MBTI assessment, Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, studied and built on the ideas of Carl Jung’s theory of personality types, and developed the MBTI assessment to give people everywhere access to the benefits in knowing about personality type and appreciating differences.

The MBTI assessment is the world’s most widely and universally used tool for understanding normal, healthy personality differences among people everywhere. Through MBTI, we can identify each individual’s personality type, potential strengths and areas of development. The perfume pairing is able to find their unique perfume which can represent each personality type, in order to magnify the individual’s strengths.

Have you done this perfume pairing before or is it your first time? How’s your experience?

This is definitely my first time doing the perfume pairing. Studies have shown that the fragrances we choose to wear could influence other people’s impressions of our personalities, and I learnt from Pauline [from Parfumerie Trésor] that in the world of perfume, each perfume can actually represent a unique personality, this is why we came up with the idea of perfume pairing.

How does the pairing process work?

To start with, we will give you a “pairing card” and on this “pairing card” are 4 questions that you will need to answer. Based on your answers, I can find out your personality type and begin to analyse your core characteristics and help pair and match the perfect perfume for you.

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Perfume has the ability to become a booster or an invisible accessory that can aid in bringing out hidden qualities of your personality
Andrew Wong

When I use a ladies’ perfume, I always lament how the smell fades easily while men’s perfume tends to last longer. Is there a psychological reason behind this?

The longevity of a perfume isn’t based on gender but on a multitude of different factors, as perfumes actually aren’t gender-based but rather based on personal preference. The reasons for it lasting longer on another individual compared to yourself could be based on factors such as your own body type. As humans, our own internal temperature could be higher than some individuals who exude a lower level of body heat. Our skin condition could also be another contributing factor to the longevity of perfume and also the diet we are on.

One’s skin can be more alkaline or acidic depending on an individual's dietary habits which affect how long a perfume can stay on our skin. Another reason for the perfume lasting longer on others is the weather, if you are under the sun or in the heat more than others who perhaps stay indoors under cooler conditions could affect how long a perfume lasts as well. Despite all the different factors to explain this, Parfumerie Trésor has shared with me personally their own way of helping one's perfume to last longer on their skin, but you will probably have to visit them to learn their secrets.

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What are the factors that compel us or attract us to a certain fragrance?

Similar to why we have a certain affinity towards certain perfumes or scents, we are driven by the simplicity of liking a certain scent because it smells nice to us. Another factor that compels us or attracts us to a certain fragrance could be our olfactory memory. A scent that reminds of us a happy memory, event or occasion could definitely attract us more as well. Sometimes, we are also attracted to scents that remind us of a loved one.

How does perfume/scent convey personality, feelings and emotions? Do they trigger mood boosts and psychological improvements?

We judge people based on their scent. Through scent, we will decide whether or not the person you are facing is an enemy and a threat, or someone who is trustworthy and reliable. The fragrance we choose to wear could also have an impact on other people’s impressions of our personalities. There are many studies that have shown that our perception of a person’s personality differed depending on the composition of the fragrance.

If an introvert wants to appear like an extrovert, can that person use an extrovert's perfume? Will that work?

There are different perfumes for different introvert types that fit an introvert's personality. However, sometimes other people might see an introvert as quiet and reserved. As a result, if an introvert is going to a party and wants to give an impression of being sociable, he/she might want to wear a perfume that can give others the perception that he/she is outgoing. Perfume has the ability to become a booster or an invisible accessory that can aid in bringing out hidden qualities of your personality.

For instance, your personality type is ISFP—people usually refer to this personality as the artistic type—we will have a perfume that can represent your artistic style. However, there are situations where people may think that an ISFP individual is quiet, reserved and private. If an ISFP wants others to see him/her as a sociable person, we will then help an ISFP to find a perfume that can bring out their hidden energetic and outgoing side.

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What if the perfume based on my personality isn’t something that I like?

This unique 16 personalities and 16 perfumes workshop in relation to the MBTI test is an act of a guide to aid those who completely don’t know where to start when looking for their perfume. We usually seek perfumes for different purposes, some use them for everyday life, some for work environments and some for social settings.

This psychological MBTI test acts as a base to help us understand not only ourselves better but help guide us to know what we want to do with this perfume. In the end, a multitude of factors come into play when finding that “perfect” perfume and one of the factors is our personal taste, a simple “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” But by first finding out our personalities, we will know better how to narrow down the perfume choices that are perfect for us individually.

Then, how do you pair the perfume with the personality?

We understand the theory of personality and perfume, we know well that each perfume gives others the perception of personality, therefore we can pair a perfume for them.

There are various questions we need to ask ourselves when choosing our perfume. This test will help us understand ourselves better and also acts as a guide as to how we choose a perfume. It will help give direction and allow Parfumerie Trésor’s experienced perfumeries to help those attending find their perfect perfume.

This is such a unique perfume selection service, how did it come about?

Both Pauline, the founder of Parfumerie Trésor and myself met a few years back and have been friends for a while. We got to talking one day and Pauline shared with me the beauty and magic behind perfumes. She mentioned how she often helps individuals find their perfume based mostly on their personality and always wondered if there was a way to scientifically help individuals first identify their personality so she could ultimately help them find the perfume that best matches them.

From this, I shared with her the MBTI personality assessment test, which could be used as a great tool to help individuals identify their own personality type and the perfect perfume for them. As such, the 16 personalities, 16 perfumes pairing service was born.

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The 16 Personalities, 16 Perfumes pairing service is available at Parfumerie Trésor. For more information, please visit parfumerietresor.com