Book Definition: Smell is the transduction of volatile substances entering the nose that are picked up by the hair cells of the olfactory epithelium, creating the olfactory sensation, the detection of odors, such as musk, flower, burning, mint, etc. [See Table 4.4, pg 129]

In Your Own Words

  • The ability to detect different fumes or odors through the nose.



Olfaction - the sense of smell

Pheromones - chemical signals released by organisms to communicate with other members of their species.
  • Often used by animals as sexual attractants.
  • It is unclear whether or not humans employ pheromones.


  • When your grandma makes pie the airborne chemical molecules of the pie interact with receptors associated with specialized nose hairs. The stimulated nerve cells then convey information about the stimulus to the brain's olfactory bulbs.
  • Smell is a sense that can alert people of dangers. For example, when someone smells gas, they know to leave, perhaps instinctively [nature], or perhaps because an individual's memory is strongest about smell out of all the senses [nurture].
  • When someone smells fire, danger is detected, and students can evacuate the school building.

Additional Resources