Interestingly, smell has the ability to elicit a strong emotional response without the recollection of an explicit memory. Sometimes it’s just the feeling we recall.
When you encounter a smell tied to something meaningful in your past, you first feel the emotion followed by a cognitive recognition, information that was stored in your brain. Often that happens quickly, but sometimes it doesn’t happen at all, and other times it can happen after some extensive searching in your brain, Herz says.
— Cognitive neuroscientist Rachel Herz talks to Prevention. Read more in The Fascinating Reason Certain Smells Trigger Powerful and Emotional Memories.