Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:15 am
Occupation: mom

Potential project question

Postby AKM » Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:50 am

Hi there,
My daughter is in 2nd grade and is really interested in, if or how the scent of something triggers a memory from the past. She got the idea after listening to family talk about old memories after smelling things like a campfire or spices. She wants to test 'a bunch' of people, and see if certain scents bring memories of something, but could use some pointers on how to go about this. Can you point us to any resources? We appreciate your help!

Former Expert
Posts: 91
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:49 pm
Occupation: Biology, Ecology Educator

Re: Potential project question

Postby sarahlaugtug » Thu Oct 17, 2013 4:16 pm

Hello AKM,
This is a great project idea! Sounds like it will be fun too. Something to get you started on the big picture of doing a science fair project: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-f ... ndex.shtml. Start out by doing some research online about how memories are formed, how/why smells trigger memories. From there, formulate a question, something you and your child can test (this is your hypothesis). There are many ways to set up your experiment, but one idea is to get a group of people to test (maybe 7-20), the bigger group you have the more accurate the results will be. Determine how you will set up your experiment: maybe choose an image paired with a scent to each person (separately, so no influencing each other). Have each person then write down their thoughts, for instance if you paired an "evergreen-scented" candle with a picture of a Christmas tree, the person might recall a memory attached to the scent. Then, depending on how much time you have to do this, retest in a month. Use the same candle, and ask the person to write down their thoughts. You can compare the 1st test to the 2nd test and draw some conclusions. Were they what you expected? Why?
That's just one idea, you can try other things too. Here is another idea, or an example to set up your project.
http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-f ... background

Please let us know, in this same thread, if you have further questions. I look forward to hearing how things go.
Always remain curious,

Former Expert
Posts: 895
Joined: Tue Sep 06, 2005 3:59 pm
Occupation: Professor

Re: Potential project question

Postby HeatherL » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:50 am

Hello AKM,

This is an excellent project idea! Sarah has already given you some wonderful advice. I just wanted to give you an interesting piece of background information. Research has shown that our preference for odors (whether we like or dislike them) is a learned behavior. In other words, we are not born liking or disliking certain smells; it all has to do with the memories and experiences with which we associate the smell. I have attached a scientific article for you, which supports this idea. The article is too technical for your daughter, but I thought it would be interesting for you to know this piece of information for the background.

Please keep us posted on your daughter's progress with her project!

Herz et al 2004.pdf
Changing Odor Hedonic Perception Through Emotional Associations in Humans
(228.26 KiB) Downloaded 139 times

Return to “Grades K-5: Life, Earth, and Social Sciences”