Some experiences are visceral, others associational but most are both. Imagine you’re in a kitchen smelling brownies. They smell pretty darn good. How much of this positive smell is from the association of your childhood helping out in the kitchen, and how much of it is just because brownies have lots of sugar and fat? This is to say – would the brownies still smell good if it was the first time you encountered them? The answer may be yes, but try out the thought experiment with a few other things.
- wood smoke
- fall leaves
- dryer sheets
- your SO’s perfume
For each of these smells think how much of you enjoyment is derived from the innate sensation itself, and how much is from its connection to other things.
The cases I want to zoom in on are those where you suspect there is a large component of innate enjoyment. I happen to think wood smoke is one of these. My question in this particular case is “why”?
Why should wood smoke be innately enjoyable? Is there such a thing?
If there is ever something that is innately enjoyable we must ask the question “why?” Why should we be programmed to like this certain thing?
Take flowers – is there any particular advantage for having flowers around? If they smell good without association – why? I can think of no particular evolutionary advantage – what other explanations might there be?