The 10 Basic Categories of All Smells

Geo Beats
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Just as taste is generally thought to be made up of five basic flavor categories – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami, or savory, scientists now propose 10 categories for our sense of smell.

Just as taste is generally thought to be made up of five basic flavor categories – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami, or savory, some scientists now propose 10 categories for our sense of smell.

A new study theorizes that any pleasant or putrid aroma you can imagine is made up of one or more of these 10 essences: fragrant, woody, non-citrus fruity, chemical, minty, sweet, popcorn, lemon, pungent, and decayed.

The research team systematically broke down 144 smells using computerized statistical techniques and the 1985 Atlas of Odor Character Profiles. You could liken the process to how an image file gets reduced in size without ruining the image.

Professor Jason Castro of the research team explained that the categories “reflect important attributes about the world - danger, food and so on…If you know these basic categories, then you can start to think about building smells.”

Important future research includes testing this theory on intricate smells such as perfume as well as using these categories to identify and predict smells based on various chemical structures. According to Castro, “obviously perfume companies, flavor and fragrance companies, are really interested in doing that well.”

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