It is widely believed that humans have a poor sense of smell. A growing body of literature suggests this idea is incorrect. In a recent review, John McGann explains that misinterpretation of biological data is one of the reasons the myth persists. For instance, for a long time scientists believed the size of the olfactory bulb was directly related to the sense of smell. But findings demonstrate that a larger olfactory bulb does not necessarily mean better olfactory perception. In fact, when measuring olfactory ability on a behavioral level, humans are much better smellers than expected!
The Atlantic covered the review and asked Asifa Majid to respond. Asifa indicates the relevance of studying olfaction across cultures. Cross-cultural data demonstrates that people in other parts of the world are better at odor detection, discrimination and odor naming. In other words, poor human olfaction is a myth.
A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that color categorization is based on biology, not culture. Babies seem to have five colour categories: red, yellow, green, blue and purple. And these categories align well with color categories commonly found across languages. The study is covered by The Guardian and by Nemo Kennislink. Asifa Majid commented on these exciting results.
The Guardian’s Home for Virtual Reality released a film that allows you to experience the world like a baby. It is called First impressions – A virtual experience of the first year of life and is based on the latest research findings in developmental psychology. In addition, Science Weekly interviewed leading scientists on the development of color vision and color categorization. One of these scientists was Asifa Majid, who described the remarkable finding that infants can categorize colors even though color categories vary across the world. If you want to know more, please listen to The Science Weekly Podcast or read the article.
A new book ‘Opzienbare ontdekkingen over taal‘ published by Van Dale includes a chapter discussing our work on smell among the Jahai and Maniq (see Chapter 9: Vleermuispoep, rook, petroleum: De invloed van taal op reuk).
Ewelina Wnuk is interviewed by the Dutch Magazine ‘Onze Taal’, a monthly language magazine. Ewelina describes the rich smell vocabulary and cultural preoccupation with smell among the hunting-gathering Maniq, and relates the findings from her fieldwork among the Maniq to our general knowledge about smell in the world’s languages. The article is called ‘Elke geur zijn eigen woord’ and can be found here (in Dutch).
What’s that unfamiliar smell in the Netherlands? On the 6th of February, an unfamiliar smell was noticed in various parts of the Netherlands. People described the smell differently e.g. as soup, hotdog, cat food… Ilja Croijmans was interviewed by BNR nieuwsradio to elaborate on these odor descriptions. The newsitem can be found here (in Dutch).
Ewelina Wnuk recently defended her PhD thesis on perception verbs in Maniq, a language spoken by a group of nomadic hunter-gatherers in southern Thailand. NRC Handelsblad interviewed her and published the article ‘Een taal met verfijnde werkwoorden‘. NRC Handelsblad
Ilja Croijmans describes his research findings on wine reviews on BNR nieuwsradio. He concludes: when you practice a lot, you get better at describing smell and taste. BNR Nieuwsradio
In de Taalstand, broadcasted by Radio 1, Ilja Croijmans was interviewed on our experiments in Science Museum Nemo. The experiments were designed to gain knowledge in how people link different sensory experiences, for example how do we relate colours to smells or textures to sounds. Radio 1
Ilja Croijmans was asked to comment on the now popular phenomenon of ‘Blue Wine’, in the daily news show EenVandaag on the Dutch Broadcasting Channel NPO1. In this short item, he explains how colors influence the way we perceive the flavors of wine. Blue wine is interesting from a crossmodal correspondence perspective, on the one hand, the blue color raises expectations about the flavor of the wine, while on the other, there are only few consumables that are naturally blue. This contrast makes it difficult to estimate the duration of the hype. EenVandaag
Psychologie Magazine publishes an article on how some words are unique to a language. Asifa Majid explains these phenomena and elaborates on smell words that are absent in English but do exist in other languages. Psychologie Magazine – Zomerspecial
Asifa Majid has a featured interview with editor Jon Sutton for The Psychologist in the most recent issue. Asifa, who is also a member of the International Panel for The Psychologist, talks about language and thought. The piece is titled “The content of mind“. The Psychologist
Laura Speed is also featured in The Psychologist this month. In her piece ‘The knowing nose’ she discusses the difference between visual and olfactory perception, and how perception in these modalities interacts with language. The Psychologist
The media picked up on Ilja Croijman’s study on the language of wine and coffee experts, recently published in PLoS ONE. He was interviewed by BNR nieuwsradio, Kennislink, Radio 1 and VRT Radio 1 Belgium.
Simeon Floyd’s research covered by El Telegrafo. The piece is entitled: Las culturas andinas desarrollaron su propia forma de hablar sobre el terremoto. El Telegrafo
Ilja Croijmans was interviewed by lifestyle magazine Mirror Mirror about his research on experts . The piece is called ‘Talking Scents’. Mirror Mirror
Asifa Majid gives an interview on BBC’s radio 4 during the programme ‘The Neglected Sense’. Listen to the podcast here. BBC radio 4
An online science news source of the Americam Association for the Advancement of Science AAAS, features Simeon Floyd’s research. The piece is titled “The linguistics of signifying time: The human gesture as clock” and can be read online. EurekAlert!
Experiment NL- Science in the Netherlands, is a magazine of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). This edition features our research on smell in a piece called ‘Capturing smells in words’. Read online here. Experiment NL
Amsterdam FM Interviews Ilja Croijmans.The interview was titled “Voor geur komt het Nederlands woorden tekort” and aired December 10th, 2015. Listen to the podcast.
The Atlantic covers our research on smell. The piece titled “Why Do Most Languages Have So Few Words for Smells?” was published on November 6th, 2015. Click here to read the article.
Radio 1 Belgium interviews Ilja Croijmans. The piece titled “Woorden voor geuren” aired November 12th, 2015. Listen to the interview here.
Kennislink publishes an article about our expert research. The piece titled “Getrainde neus herkent geuren niet beter- Waarom geuren omschrijven zo moeilijk is” was published on July 22nd, 2015. Click here to read the article.
Radio 1 Belgium covers our research on smell. The piece titled “We kunnen nauwelijks omschrijven hoe iets ruikt” was aired on April 1st, 2015.
747 ABC Melbourne interviews Asifa Majid. The interview was aired on the Australian radiostation April 2nd, 2015.
The Daily Mail UK covers our work on smell across cultures. ‘Does speaking English limit our sense of SMELL? The ability to identify and describe odours depends on the language you speak’ was published in the Daily Mail on March 3oth, 2015. Click here to read the article.
The Guardian published an article titled ‘Why can’t English speakers say what they smell’. The article was published on March 31st, 2015. Click here to read the article.
‘It’s pretty hard to put a smell into words’, article in New York Magazine. The article was published on March 30th, 2015. Click here to read the article.
Asifa Majid live on BBC Radio 4 programme PM at 54minutes. The piece was aired on the 26th of March, 2015.
An interview with Asifa Majid in New Scientist and Slate Magazine. ‘English speakers, you stink at identifying smells’ was published in New Scientist in March 2015. The New Scientist interview also appeared on Slate Magazine.Click here to read the article on New Scientist. Click here to read the article on Slate Magazine.
Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter has a weekend spread on Jahai smell language.The article titled ‘Dofter och färger – bara en tolkningsfråga’, was published on DN.se in March 2015. Click here to read.
Current Biology discusses the links between olfaction, language and behavior. The article titled ‘Our sense of smell at the crossroads’, was published in March 2015. Read Gross-CurrentBiology.
How language shapes the mind covered by Kijk Magazine. The article titled ‘Ik spreek dus ik ben – bepaalt onze taal hoe we denken?’, was published in Kijk Magazine, March 2015. Read the article Kijk 2015.
Zeit covers Smell and taste lexicons. The article titled ‘Warum haben wir kaum Worter fur Geruche und Geschmacksrichtungen?’, was published in Zeit Wissen Magazine and Zeit online in February March 2015. Click here to read.
The New Yorker attended the Annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science and reported on new findings in smell research. The article titled ‘The uneducated nose’, was published on the website of The New Yorker in February 2015. Click here to read the article.
The Economist reports on the relation between smell and language and publishes an article titled ‘Olfaction: Scent off – Culture, not biology, rules the relation between smell and language’. Click here to read.
The Economist also covers Asifa Majid’s research in a broadcast while attending the Annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science, where Asifa Majid gave a talk. The piece, titled ‘What’s that smell?’, was broadcasted in Februari 2015. Listen to the broadcast here.
Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen broadcasts ‘Why smells are difficult to describe’. The piece, originally titled ‘Warum Gerüche so unbeschreiblich sind’, was broadcasted in Februari 2015. Click here to listen to the radio piece.
Kennislink covers multi-authored study comparing perception verbs in conversation across 13 languages. The article titled ‘De taal van wat je ziet, hoort en ruikt’, was published in January 2015. Click hear to read.
El Pais reports on a multi-authored study comparing perception verbs in conversation across 13 languages. The article titled ‘Una jerarquía casi universal de los cinco sentidos’, was published in January 2015. Click hear to read.
DW covers Lila San Roque’s article on the crosscultural hierarchy of the senses. The article titled ‘Ver es siempre lo más importante’, was published in January 2015. Click hear to read the article.