Why Your House Doesn't Smell —to You
Your brain can effectively 'turn off' the scent
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Aug 31, 2014 8:04 AM CDT
Updated Aug 31, 2014 7:55 AM CDT
Your house probably has no smell to you because your brain has turned it off.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Ever noticed how your friends' homes have a distinct scent—but yours doesn't? Or wondered why the smell of your perfume doesn't get to you after a while? It's essentially because your brain has noticed these scents, registered them as unproblematic, and decided to ignore them, an expert explains to the Science of Us. You initially notice smells in your environment as molecules reach your nostrils, but after your brain puts them in the non-dangerous category, "the receptors in your nose sort of switch off," says cognitive psychologist Pamela Dalton.

The purpose of this process, scientists think, is to allow us to pick up on new smells as soon as they emerge. "Whatever is new in your environment, that huge signal rises above the rest,” Dalton notes. Want to find out what your home smells like to others? More blood flow may help; try some exercise. It also might help to take a break; after vacations, Dalton points out, we often recognize our houses' smells, thinking it seems a little musty inside. So if you're looking for a fresh take on your favorite perfume, maybe don't use it for a while, Yahoo suggests. (As for your own scent, it can attract or repel mosquitoes.)

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Showing 3 of 16 comments
Lou Bernardo
Sep 5, 2014 9:39 PM CDT
Is that why people who have dogs and whose house makes you gag when you walk into never smell that puke-inducing stink? (or why they can't understand why no one ever wants to visit their house?)
Aug 31, 2014 6:08 PM CDT
and that is news how? Your brain gets use to noise of fan or AC as well.
Aug 31, 2014 5:03 PM CDT
For the same reason you can't smell your breath and nose cavity. Want to see how the inside of your nose smells? Hold it pinched between your thumb and first finger then roll your fingers like rolling a booger. Let go then breath in through your nose.