Olfaction: Detecting the Odor of the Onion Bagels

The olfactory system is the human sense that is accountable for the recognition of scents. There is a large number of factors, such as source, distance, and area, affect the concentration of odors that people perceive. Furthermore, the olfactory system is an adaptable sense, which implies that the person can get accustomed to certain odors, and it will weaken their response to these particular smells. Neural adaptation is universal for all sensory systems and might significantly affect the experience of the individual.

The canonical example of the olfactory system adaptation is the tobacco smell. Long-time smokers get used to the odor and eventually stop noticing it, while non-smokers can instantly recognize the smell. For the same reason, when first entering a place with concentrated odors, such as a restaurant, the person experiences a strong sense of smell, which gradually disappears with time. These examples demonstrate the adaptability of the olfactory system in humans.

Concerning the question, Murray will be able to recognize the odor of onion bagels easier than his friend Ben due to neural adaptation. Murray has arrived at the bakery ten minutes before Ben; as a result, Murray has already gotten used to the odors of sesame, garlic, and cinnamon bagels. In other words, after spending ten minutes in the shop, Murray has adapted to the concentration of these particular odors in the air. However, the fresh-baked onion bagels produce a new type of smell, which differs from the others. As a result, Ben is overwhelmed by the odors of various bagel types upon arriving, while Murray experiences only one new smell – onion bagel. Naturally, it is easier to identify one new odor than to distinguish it among four different types of smells; thus, Murray will more easily be able to detect the odor of onion bagels than Ben.

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