Tag Archives: psychology

Aromatic Identities

Our sense of smell is a truly astonishing thing. Although humans have fewer olfactory receptor genes (so, basically, genes which allow you to smell a greater range of scents) than most mammals, because of our higher brain power, we’re still damn good at smelling what is what. In fact, what makes scent amazing and interesting is how little it has to do with our nose, and how much about our brain. Of course, without noses we’d be unable to smell anything. But that’s just pure mechanics. Where things get really interesting is how those smells get processed by the brain. The signals from our noise when we smell stuff terminate right next to our amygdala, which has a large role in how we process our memories. This means that scent is very strongly linked to memories for us – with memories evoked by scent often being far more emotional and evocative than that of memories evoked by sight or sound. Even more interesting, the memories evoked by scent often come from the earliest years of our lives – so it really goes back all the way, bringing back experiences which are often unreachable through sight and sound.

Because of all this, it’s interesting to see how scent can define us. Can a personality profile tell us what scents we’d like; or vice versa , can the scents we like reflect our personalities? This is, in essence, what Fragrance Lab at Selfridges is attempting to do – find your perfume prescription based on primarily on a personality profile, and secondarily on your reactions to a kind of “scent adventure”, culminating in the ‘fragrance garden’, where you’re guided through a number of rooms filled with different fragrances. You’ll smell things you love, and never want to leave (I was so wrapped up in smelling books that I got completely lost for a few minutes!), and odors you’ll hate so much that you’ll wonder how anyone could like them. Yet some people still do – the fragrances you like can define you in a way your favourite colour or texture never could, because of their strong link  to memory.

I had the very lucky chance to go through the Fragrance Lab – the Immersive Experience, as they call it, when you do both the personality profile and get to go on a “scent adventure” (my own name for it, because that’s basically what it felt like!) which culminates in an amazing “fragrance garden” (theirs). From this, you get your own fragrance prescription (which you get a bottle of), which is built up mainly from your personality profile. The fragrance prescription even influences the kind of bottle your fragrance comes in – which it’s modern, or classic, or something else entirely!

I actually had two fragrance prescriptions, the first being simply from my personality profile. This was intensely modern, and unusual – something that would easily stand out of the crowd. However, my “scent adventure” revealed that however modern and unique I may think I am, I’ve got a massive soft stop for antiquity. My second (and final) perfume prescription – number 147 – was incorporated that as well.

Modern and outgoing, but with an immense sense of nostalgia for the old. Pretty much me – I’m forward thinking, and very much ‘out with the old and in with the new’ when it comes to pretty much everything, but then I’m a sucker for beautiful antiquity. Give me a massive wooden library with leather chairs and stacks of old books over a shiny new iPad or eBook anyday. To quote, the key fragrance notes are ‘antique wood, whiskey, and fern’,  seeming to have a hint of spice to it, and coming in a classic glass bottle – it’s a scent which brings me back to curling up in the corner and reading books, while my Mum burns frankincense in the next room, which just slowly makes its way towards me. It’s also very different from my other perfumes, my favourite of which is very clean cut, and fresh and androgynous. This is far more deep and dusky – a scent I’m very glad to be able to add to my shelf – something more comforting and which I can just relax into. I often use scent as a way of projecting elements of myself which are perhaps not as strong otherwise – this is a more rounded fragrance which I could say expressed all of me. It’s strong yet understated, confident get still slightly reserved, with a hint of the unusual.

To see yourself profiled through fragrance is a very unique and wonderful experience – I may have taken hundreds of online personality tests, but this really reveals something deeper, especially  on the “scent adventure”. The Fragrance Lab was a truly amazing experience, something I’m so pleased I was able to take part in, and something I’d recommend to others quickly. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get back to smelling my perfume (it’s addictive, but that might just be the high alcohol content!) and daydreaming about massive libraries and old books.  – oh Alexandria, how I mourn you!


First, I have to thank my sister Tiffany for getting me my spot in the Fragrance Lab – I’m so glad I had the opportunity to experience it! Also, thanks to everyone who worked on and built the Fragrance Lab, creating such a unique and interesting (and also revealing!) experience, and also Selfridges for hosting it. 

I never realised how much scent meant to me – how much I hated certain smells, and was comforted by others. Yes, I knew about the fact that it was the most evocative sense, but I had never really experienced it for myself up till now. Fragrance Lab really opened up my nose, so to speak. 

What does smell mean for you? Are there certain smells which disgust you, but others love? And what makes a fragrance beautiful, and makes you want to wear it – does it have to evokes memories, or maybe project an image? Or do you try and find scents that fully evoke yourself, and nothing else – not something to hide behind or blur the corners, but to fully outline yourself, and nothing else. 

Urban Evolution

Moving on from from the psychological in Emotional Evolution last Sunday, we now have the physical (well, kinda – the fashionable!). Here, the fashion focuses on organic themes evolving into a urban emphasis (London, of course). Inspired by the urban, there’s more streets brands involved (in fact, this outfit is entirely my own wardrobe, unlike most of the previous looks, with the exception of Imperial Geek Chic which was also all me). It draws on both the natural, with earthy tones, but painting them in a new light, with modern styles and city skylines. 

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My first thought for this outfit was something exceedingly natural – all earthy tones, and I’d shoot in a park and all that. I even went as far to put pieces of the outfit together before I realised it wasn’t right. The outfit was fine, but it didn’t fit. This was about evolution, not simply ‘nature’.

With this in mind I changed the shoot and outfit almost entirely. I kept the earthy tones, but offset them with splashes of colour and modern patterns; the stripey D&G bra, the embroidery and gold belt on the Punkyfish combats, and the print on the Iron Fist shirt. I moved away from natural flowing shapes to ones more edgy and urban, and brought in some ferocity with my distressed denim Ash heels, which was also added to via my Una Burke leather cuff and Bamford leather bracelet. The set changed from a purely organic nature setting to that of an urban garden.

All in all, the final look was one I’m very proud of. It had the organic and natural edge, but evolved into an urban setting. I’m very much looking forward to finding an occasion to wear it!


I’m so happy with how this look turned out, especially given how unsure I was about the outfit and setting (I was making changes right up till the very last moment, and had hardly planned the makeup and hair at all). The pictures were taken by my awesome sis Tiffany, who resides on twitter and Instagram, and the set was my home (the front ‘garden’ and roof ‘garden’ although there’s no actual grass anywhere).

I also want to give a quick shout out to Rebel State (also on twitter and Instagram!), as that’s where I got the Iron Fist t-shirt, which I love to bits, and it’s also where I get the majority of the awesome stuff I wear day-to-day. I love them because they stock lots of different brands, but all in line with the type of stuff I like – street style with a dark edge. I’m sure you’ll see more stuff I got from them on here over time, as it’s pretty much where I go whenever I’m in Camden. 

Emotional Evolution

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Many would argue that it is our emotions that make us human – that the complex and entangled nature of our internal lives is what separates us from other animals. True, other animals seem to have some emotions – your pet greets you happily when you get home, dogs get excited about going on walks, animals seem to get angry, and can love their young. But so far, most animals don’t seem to display the complex internal struggles that we humans experience. And it is easy to see how this emotional nature separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Our emotions allow us to make art, not just for purely decorative purposes, or as some type of mating call (as seen in the lavishly decorated nests of bowerbirds for example), but as a way to try and express ourselves, a vehicle of passion. And passion is very important here, as that is definitely not usually seen in other species. This is especially clear when we look at some emotions that haven’t been recognised in other species.

One of these? Spite. Spite is a purely human emotion, a form of hatred which is hatred for hatred’s sake, where we derive pleasure from seeing other man is pain. It is not a practical emotion, and we gain no evolutionary advantage from it – it is not revenge to gain something new, like land or riches, but a way of seeing our fellow man suffer. And spite can create some of the greatest art, and drama of all time. Look at Shakespeare’s Othello, with the horrifically spiteful Iago. His destruction of Othello’s marriage, causing him to kill Desdemona, was as a form of revenge (for not being promoted when Cassio was), but it is not a revenge which brings him anything apart from pleasure at another man’s suffering. There were no real or practical rewards, only the resolution of his own jealousy. We see in Iago something that at once feels horrific and evil, and yet is at the same time all too familiar and human.

Humanity may be redeemed, however. Spite is not the only unique human emotion – gratitude is as well. Not the selfish gratitude, where you know someone has done something for you in return for something else (which we do observe in the animal kingdom), but gratitude that truly fulfils the old “it’s not the gift itself, but the feeling behind it” adage. Whilst we may be spiteful, we can also be kind for kindnesses sake – these are emotions whose only purpose is emotion itself, bringing us back to passion, for is that not in a sense what passion is? Large outpourings of emotion, without any real practical use, but that inspire creativity, and love, and our humanity.

These emotions are what make us human – they are both what make us fallible and strong. It is hard to imagine a world without them, and you would not want to – whilst some may argue we would be better off without spite, it would be a cruel world if we lost gratitude too. These emotions are the ones that can cause some of the worst conflicts in our lives, but also create some of the happiest moment. They are what make our lives real and human, and what make us, us.


This blog post was inspired by an amazing discussion panel/talk I went to at the Natural History Museum called ‘Emotional Evolution’ (where I stole the name from, funnily enough!). There were three speakers, who were all fantastic and very interesting – Dr Geoff Bird, Alastair Gill, and Dr Penny Spikins who I must pay special thanks to as she’s the one who talked about spite and gratitude being uniquely human (but they all said so many interesting things that I could probably write ten blog posts about all the different things they looked into!). The event was linked in with the ‘Britain: One million years of the human story’ exhibition, which I desperately need to go see myself, but recommend purely on the basis of the glimpse into it that the talk gave me, and was also part of the ‘After hours‘ late nights at the NHM, which (like the ones at the Science Museum) are so much fun, and I also recommend.  Thanks so much also to all the hosts of the ‘Emotional Evolution’ panel talk – I had so much fun, and learnt so much!