The quality of the scent is also vital. “There are scents that are almost exclusively made of cheap solvents, mixed with small amounts of synthetic fragrances. Besides our olfactory system, these also stimulate the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensations from the face to the brain, causing headaches and nausea.” For a positive effect, the scientist advises using predominantly high-quality scents made from pure essential oils, in a low concentration just above our threshold of perception.
Multi-sensory interior design – skill and art united
In the field of interior design, multi-sensory media can be used specifically as harmonised elements of synaesthetic architecture, thereby generating a consciously intensive room experience which helps to achieve a sense of all-round wellbeing. The term “synaesthesia” actually comes from the realm of psychology and refers to an alteration of perception in which sensory stimuli are combined in uncommon ways, making one believe, for instance, that we can taste colour or see music and smells. This same perception can also be triggered through intelligent combination of multi-sensory media in synaesthetic room concepts – here, however, as a conscious, sensuous experience. Not all senses are stimulated to the same degree, of course. It is the mixture and intensity that matters. In the ideal scenario, colour, shape, light, touch, material, sound and smell blend in optimum combination. This is a great skill that is hard to master. Various factors can influence the result of playing with the senses in the exact opposite direction. Each person, for example, has their very own “smell history” shaped individually by their experiences. We associate some smells with pleasant situations, but even supposedly nice smells can appear unpleasant to some people, depending on what they associate them with.
Equally counterproductive are contradictory perceptions of two senses. Upon seeing PVC flooring with a realistic oak look, for example, our visual nerves suggest “wooden floor”. We can feel the difference, however, once we step on it: it yields without producing the anticipated sound of walking on wood and therefore the user unconsciously feels “betrayed”. This has also been confirmed in studies at the Max Planck Institute of Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen. Researchers here found that the brain forms a sensory “image” based on a number of sensations. If this is inconsistent across the different senses, these “incorrect” images are excluded, in other words, they are identified as untrue. A democratic decision of the senses, in a manner of speaking, in which the visual nerve often loses out to our more unconscious senses.