The concept of freshness has developed over the last century to involve a range of sensations and responses to tastes, smells and feelings associated with foods, the environment and cleaning products. But what is it that contributes or tells us that something is fresh from a neurocognitive perspective? It seems unlikely that freshness be merely the absence of negative stimuli that promote a disgust response, as freshness is often associated as a positive response.

I know this is a wide ranging question, however there is surprisingly little research on a concept that advertisers use daily, to promote cleaning products. Its unusual that such a important perception and its associated behaviour has so little academic research. Funny how merely watching the adverts between TV shows can make you curious!


The exact questions are...

  1. What are the cognitive factors that make humans or animals perceive something to be fresh/clean?

  2. What are the neurocognitve mechanisms underlying these processes?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If I understand you correctly - you are asking how the brain knows that scents like lemon, lavender, etc are associated with that clean sparkly feeling. I have an answer here, which deals with chemosensors in a rat brain. I'd be interested if humans have something similar cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/1996/… $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Apr 12 '16 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexStone Please forgive the dyslexia: I think this may have been worded better. The mechanism in the response you provided was certainly what I was looking for, although I don't think exact topic is quiet what I was looking for. Interesting and useful none-the-less. I'l ad an edit to the question. I'm asking two questions really. What are the cognitive factors that make something fresh and clean? and what are the neural mechanisms involved? Considering so much of advertising is based on cleanliness and freshness you would think there was a substantial body of research on it. $\endgroup$
    – Comte
    Apr 13 '16 at 15:22

Freshness is a term which is widely used to identify odors. The olfactive stimuli which is trigerred by fragrant materials like citruses, aromatics( lavender, rosemary), peppermints or green materials (like leafs or grass) these are more volatile groups they are light molecules and usually refer to freshness. But the cool or fresh sensation not just come from the olfactive perception or identification it is because of the trigeminal nerve fibers which are responsible of sensing temperature and irritating substances. It is both temperature and the identification why there is a common freshness perception.

EDIT: All the cleansing products which are perfumed, tested durig the wet and dry stages to examine power and hedonic scales. So perfumes inside the product need to be percieved during wet and dry stages and fragrant materials need to diffuse quickly to create a first impression: here something is about to be all clean. These kind of diffusion only obtained with the volatilest chemicals which are mostly triggered trigeminal nerves and creating a fresh or cool sensation.

Doty RL. Intranasal trigeminal detection of chemical vapors by humans.

Interactions between Olfaction and the Trigeminal System: What Can Be Learned from Olfactory Loss


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