It is certain that the human olfactory sense is able to perceive many more smells than we are able to understand and rationally process.
With training it is therefore possible to improve our olfactory sense to be able to distinguish many smells. Proof of this are perfumers, sommeliers and others who work with a sense of smell that has developed skills far above the average.
There are cases where non-professionals have developed this capacity as well. This is the case with some blind people. It is said that Helen Keller, a well-known American writer and activist, was able to recognize both people and their work by the smell she perceived when they entered the room.
Then there are also the stories of children who grew up in particular conditions and needed to rely heavily upon their sense of smell, thus developing apparently exceptional skills. In particular, there were the "wild" boys, found after having been raised by animals, who are said to have developed powerful olfactory skills such as the ability to smell "food" from very long distances or recognize others by their scent. This is the case of Kamala, the wolf child found in India in the early 1900s, or the "gazelle boy", who grew up in the Western Sahara with a group of gazelles around 1970, or Victor, a child found in the French woods at the end of 1700.
To understand what an average person's olfactory sense is capable of, one must therefore rely on studies done by researchers. For example, the University of California, Berkeley has done an experiment to understand if we can develop the hound's ability to follow an olfactory track in an open environment without any other visual or acoustic references. The experiment consisted of selecting a group of heterogeneous people, on the average, and asked them to find and then follow an olfactory path in an open field by sniffing the olfactory track across the grass. By training 3 times a day for 3 days a week, after just 2 or 3 weeks their skills improved significantly confirming the formidable unexpressed capacity of our sense of smell. (see The Perfect Sense by Anna d’Errico)
Did you know you have these “hidden” skills? Incredible, right?
But how much can we improve and what can be done? Train your sense of smell with TasterPlace!