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Why Do I Smell Flowers; You Smell Sewage?

Updated on April 12, 2015

I Smell Stale Urine, You Smell Flowers: Why?

A rose is a rose, but some of us smell them different and whether we liked them or were turned off also play a role in how we perceive them.
A rose is a rose, but some of us smell them different and whether we liked them or were turned off also play a role in how we perceive them.

We Live in Our Own Unique Olfactory World

No Two People Smell Alike

Charles J. Wysocki, Ph.D., an NIDCD-supported researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, is investigating genetic differences in smell perception. It is known that people perceive scents differently.

Andreas Keller, a geneticist at the Rockefeller University says, "Everybody's olfactory world is unique, private world. Our uniqueness includes we all have an olfactory "blind spot."

What is a "Pseudogene?"

As we adapt to our changing environment, our sense of smell has become less important. The 400 genes encoding our olfactory (smelling nerve endings) receptors began to accumulate mutations. After a number of mutations, it becomes a pseudogene notes geneticist Doron Lancet of Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, meaning it no longer encodes a functioning receptor.

Therefore, we each smell differently because we have different combinations of pseudogenes. Doron Lancet says, "You end up with a bar code situation, whereby each individual has a slightly different bar code."

We Have Huge Capacity to Smell

We humans have the capacity to smell up to 10,000 different odors, but for most of us, many of the genes controlling our sense of those smells have shut down business. We do not need the capacity anymore...

An example of our differing capacity to smell is our sensitivity to the smell of sweat. Some individuals have a heightened ability to pick up body odor. The scientists also found that women are more sensitive to many smells than men. Some other interesting facts: two million people in the US have no sense of smell at all and one in a thousand can't smell skunks.

Genetic Smell Variability Seems to Translate into Behavioral Variability

Keller (Rockefeller University) asked 500 people to rate a panel of 68 odors for intensity and pleasantness, they gave the full range of responses. Some detected a "weak" odor, others detected the same odor as "intense."

Your "Smell" is Your "Fingerprint"

Enjoy your unique "smell fingerprint" and be aware others may smell sewage when you smell roses!

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    • dallas93444 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dallas W Thompson 

      10 years ago from Bakersfield, CA


      Perhaps it adds to the angst of "not feeling well."

      Thanks for your comments.

    • profile image


      10 years ago from Dayton, ohio

      this is probubly why people with a cold don't want to eat.

    • dallas93444 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dallas W Thompson 

      10 years ago from Bakersfield, CA


      When we "taste" an onion, we really are smelling the oils in an onion. If our nose is blocked from smelling an onion when we taste one, if blindfolded, we would guess we are eating an apple...

      Our smells assist in selecting our mates. Mates can select their spouse's same clothes from a pile of same clothes worn by others by the distinct smell of their mate.

      Pheremones play a significant part of being attracted to another person...

    • katiem2 profile image

      Katie McMurray 

      10 years ago from Ohio

      How cool, I once read a woman has a built in smell receptor that detects her perfect mate and once any female takes birth control it off sets her natural built in sense of smell designed to make her desire her perfect mate. Hmmmm the sense of smell is a vital key to happiness no doubt.

      I enjoyed your why do I smell flowers you smell urine or sewage. Very interesting and thought provoking.

      :) Katie

    • dallas93444 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dallas W Thompson 

      10 years ago from Bakersfield, CA


      Each of us are truly unique...

      Thanks for your comments!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      10 years ago from UK

      So just like the 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' 'perfume is in the nose of the be-smeller'?' Good thought and backed by research too .

    • dallas93444 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dallas W Thompson 

      10 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Our reality is our perception!

      Thanks for the comments.

    • safiq ali patel profile image

      safiq ali patel 

      10 years ago from United States Of America

      Try telling a person who suffers Hay Fever that a flower smells beautiful.


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