Emotion-smell synesthesia

An alternative name could be emotional-olfactory synesthesia

Emotions triggering a synesthetic smell concurrent can be of two types: either other people’s emotions, or the synesthete’s own emotions. In any case, it appears to be a very uncommon type of synesthesia. In his study of 1,143 synesthetes, Sean Day indicates that two of them reported having this type of experience (0.2%). Its characteristics would be that the aromas perceived would be consistent (same emotion = same smell), and probably – as seems to be the norm in synesthesias with an olfactory concurrent – the smells would probably not be perceived every single time the trigger was present but only under certain circumstances (on feeling or receiving the impression of a strong or important emotion; at a particular time when the synesthete is feeling more sensitive and receptive, etc.).

Here are some descriptions written by people with this type of synesthesia:

Smells from other people's emotions:

“Emotions have weird smells to me. Not my own emotions, but the emotions of others. A content and generally happy person smells like chicken. Live chickens that have been rained on.

Anger smells like a fresh set of new shoes.”

(Source: This post on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2020.)

My dad [has] smells for emotions, so he can tell when I’m sad as he smells the sea and when I´m happy he smells wood.”

(Source: a comment on this website. 2018.)

Smells from one's own emotions:

“One particular example, I have a sort of journal in my notes app and at one point while feeling bad about something that could only be described as a gut twisting feeling of instinctual wrongness and disreality, I recounted that I’d felt it before and described it as “that same smell, that same feeling”.

And since back then I didn’t know that other people didn’t just casually smell their own bad/complicated emotions. (…)

It was very cloying/sickly sweet I think.

I think I can say that for a lot of the weird/bad feelings, just some underlying sickness in the scent they carried. The type of smell that would make you yourself feel sick when faced with both the emotion and the scent in tandem.

It's a weird thing cause I can't really describe the smells but I can't really describe the emotions they came with, either. Bad feelings usually smell worse/more distinct, so I remember them better, but I don't really know if I've smelled positive emotions before.”

(Source: Comments on this post on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2023.)

Related types of synesthesia:



Perceived emotion-to-colour and other concurrents (with other people’s emotions)


This page last updated: 16 February 2023


  1. I think my “concept-smell” synesthesia IS actually emotion-taste synesthesia because sometimes I can picture an image and both taste and smell is triggered for that image. It’s the same taste and smell for that image (or verbal description which causes me to picture an image) each time, but if I don’t have an emotional response to it or if the image or picture in my head isn’t clear or invested, my synesthesia isn’t triggered.

    1. That's very interesting and says something about the importance of emotions to the synesthetic experience: sometimes it's difficult to distinguish whether the real inducer of a synesthetic experience is a consistent emotion felt, even when it appears to be something else. I think this is the case for me too, with some things like smelling or tasting music for example: the same kind of music produces the same emotion and bingo! It has a taste or smell. If the circumstances mean you don't get that emotion, the apparent synesthetic inducer won't give you the taste or smell. Thank you for commenting!

  2. It happens OFTEN but not every single time.