Have you ever played What’s That Smell? It is a fun exercise where you rely only on your sense of smell to determine the source of a scent. We often rely on visual or tactile clues to decide what something is, but our sense of smell may be our strongest sense and it can be used on its own.
To see how this is possible, we examine how our sense of smell works. Our body detects an odor when volatile molecules travel up our nostrils, through the nasal cavity, and into the part of the brain called the limbic system. This area hosts primitive instincts including emotions, moods, and memories. When an odor arrives there it has bypassed conscious thought, traveling into the depths of the brain in an instant. This immediate response, and the fact that the scent has arrived in the place where we store memories, allows us to figure a scent out with just our nose.
To engage in this game, collect several small jars, a few cotton balls, and a set of essential oils (to be nice, do not use garlic essential oil). As the host, you should keep track of what is in the jars by numbering them and writing a list of what oil is in which numbered jar. You will place a drop or two of essential oil on a cotton ball, then place it in a jar and cap it. Do this for each essential oil that you are using. Players will remove the cap, smell the cotton ball, and then guess the scent. The host can play too if they have forgotten the essential oil to jar pairings. Guessing can get amusing, but this activity can also give your nose a workout. You can help train your brain to recall memories paying attention only to smells. Sometimes the brain can’t quite do it and you come up hilarious answers, such as – pickle juice? cotton candy?