Archive for olfaction

The Human’s Olfaction

Posted in School Work, science with tags , , , , , , on November 14, 2008 by technowyvern


  • Olfaction or the sense of smell is one of the five senses. It is mediated by specialized sensory cells of the nasal cavity of vertebrates, and by analogy, sensory cells of the antennae of invertebrates.
  • The chemicals which activate the olfactory system, generally at very low concentrations, are called odors.


  • To find out whether familiarity of a scent affects human’s olfaction.
  • To measure human’s speed of guessing the source of a smell.


  1. Does familiarity of a scent affects the work of human’s olfaction?
  2. How fast can one guesses a smell?


  1. Familiarity does affect the olfaction ability. People can guess the source of a scent more accurately if they have already smelled it before.
  2. One’s speed of guessing a smell can be as fast as one second.


  • Blind fold
  • Mango
  • Plastic bags
  • Melon
  • Peanut butter
  • Orange
  • Cod liver oil
  • Stop watch


  1. Samples of scents are being placed in plastic bags.
  2. A participant closes his eyes using blind fold or by his own hands.
  3. Samples are being put below the participant’s nose for him to smell.
  4. The participant guesses the source of the scents he smells while the time is being count using stop watch.


  1. The participant is allowed to know (see and smell) and is told about all of the samples that are going to be tested.
  2. The rest of the steps are the same as the one showed above.


Experiment 1

Experiment 1

Experiment 2

Experiment 2


  • In the 1st experiment, the participants had trouble guessing the cod liver oil.
  • The orange’s scent was sweet instead of sour like what the participants expected. They were quite unsure and hesitated on guessing it.
  • The fastest guessing time was 1.45 seconds and the longest time was 28.96 seconds.
  • In the 2nd experiment, the participants already know what the samples are and have also smelled them.
  • The cod liver oil was still the hardest sample to guess.
  • The fastest guessing time was 1.59 seconds and the longest time was 22.68 seconds.
  • The participants could guess melon and peanut butter the best because the scents were quite strong and were familiar to them. 
  • The cod liver oil is not commonly known or familiar, which explains why it was the hardest sample to guess – even if it has the most peculiar smell.


  1. Familiarity does affect the human’s olfaction ability.
  2. The olfactory system works properly, but the brain cannot provide the name of the source accurately without having a similar experience and being told of the scent before.
  3. Most of us can guess the source of a familiar scent or smell in one to two seconds at best. But when the smell isn’t familiar, it’ll take a lot more time to guess or just to describe it.