Big brands figured it out a long time ago: People love “pumpkin spice.”
Johns Hopkins University researchers say it’s not so much the taste of pumpkin spice that we love so much as the smell and it’s associations.
Researcher Jason Fischer explains, “There’s a kind of special access to the memory system in the brain that odor perception has.”
Even just reading the phrase “pumpkin spice” can bring forth the scents and memories of fall, which are further enforced when the leaves change colors and other physical signs of fall are present around us.
McCormick & Company first released their pumpkin pie spice blend in 1934, and two years ago it was the company’s fourth best-selling retail spice during fall.
The researchers add that there’s another factor at play called “the familiarity effect,” which dictates “the more you’ve been exposed to something, the more it ingrains itself in your preferences.”
Fisher adds, “So simply by experiencing pumpkin spice every year, over and over again… it takes on that sense of familiarity” and when you add in all the other positive associations with fall, it “can really cause us to find some sort of nostalgic comfort in it.”
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- Researchers say it’s not so much that we’re obsessed with the flavor of pumpkin spice as much as we like the scent (which brings back positive memories) and then when it’s coupled with the leaves changing colors and other physical signs of fall– it conjures up a sense of nostalgia and familiarity