You Love Pumpkin Spice Because Science


Woman holding glass of tasty pumpkin spice latte on wooden table, flat lay composition

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ResearchersJason FischerandSarah Cormiea,with the Dynamic Perception Lab at Johns Hopkins University, have looked at how the brain responds to the smell of pumpkin spice. They explain that the part of the brain that processes smell is closely linked to the part of the brain that deals with memories. It turns out, the popularity of pumpkin spice comes from those familiar spices - including cinnamon and ginger - as well as our previous experience smelling and tasting them. “Your brain fills in the gaps between the scent of the spices and the memories associated with the smell,” Cormiea explains.

The term “pumpkin spice” has become such a powerful marketing tool that just reading the words activates the part of the brain that processes smell and your brain makes the connection between the words and scent memory. The researchers say timing is the other key to the emotional reaction to pumpkin spice. Cormiea says, “Part of why it so strongly conjures the season and why they only sell it in the fall is because if it were available year-round, it wouldn’t have such powerful memories.”

The term “pumpkin spice” has become such a powerful marketing tool that just reading the words activates the part of the brain that processes smell and your brain makes the connection between the words and scent memory. The researchers say timing is the other key to the emotional reaction to pumpkin spice. Cormiea says, “Part of why it so strongly conjures the season and why they only sell it in the fall is because if it were available year-round, it wouldn’t have such powerful memories.”


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