Herz, Rachel 1963–

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Herz, Rachel 1963–


Born April 20, 1963. Education: Queen's University, B.A. (honors), 1985; University of Toronto M.A. 1987, Ph.D. 1992.


Office—Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, 89 Waterman St., RI 02912. E-mail—[email protected]


Educator, writer, and consultant. Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA, assistant member, 1994-2000; Brown University, Providence, RI, visiting professor, 2000-05, faculty member in Chronobiology Summer Behavioral Sciences Research Apprenticeship Program, E.P. Bradley Sleep and Chronobiology Research Lab, 2004-06, visiting professor in department of psychiatry and human behavior, Brown University Medical School, 2005—. Also distinguished lecturer for the Institute of Food Technologists, Chicago, IL, 2004—. Research design strategy and development and marketing consultant for numerous companies, including Unilever, International Flavors and Fragrances, Firmenich, Haarman & Reimer, McCormick, Inc., Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola Company, Kellogg Company, PepsioCo, Kao Corp Japan, Coty, Inc., and Pfizer. Also chief advisor for the Olfactory Memory exhibit at the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco, 1999, and Sensory Memory exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum, 2001-02. Educational assistance, personal relations assistance, and lectureships with a wide range of nonprofit, educational, and medical organizations, including the Smithsonian Institutes, Exploratorium Museum, Franklin Institute, New Jersey Medical School, Fragrance Foundation, and Sense of Smell Institute. Has appeared on numerous television programs.


Psychonomic Society, Association for Chemoreception Sciences, Association for Psychological Science, Sigma Xi.


Ontario Graduate Student Scholarship, 1989-9191; Life Sciences Graduate Degree Completion Award, 1991-92; NSERC Post-Doctoral Fellowship, 1992-94; Ajinomoto USA Inaugural Award to Promising Young Scientists in the Chemical Senses, 1994; Morley R. Kare Fellow, Monell Chemical Senses Center, 1998-2000; Moskowitz Jacobs Award for Research Excellence in the Psychophysics of Taste and Smell, 2002.


(With J.E. Wolfe, K.R. Kluender, D.M. Levi, L.M. Bartoshuk, R.L. Klatzky, and S.J. Lederman) Sensation & Perception (textbook), Sinauer Associates (Sunderland, MA), 2006, 2nd edition, 2008.

The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to books, including Memory for Odors, with E. Eich, edited by R.G. Crowder and F.B. Schab, Erlbaum (Hillsdale, NJ), 1995; Advances in Chemical Signals in Vertebrates, edited by R.E. Johnson, Plenum Publishing (New York, NY), 1999; Compendium of Olfactory Research, edited by T. Lorig, Olfactory Research Fund (New York, NY), 2001; Olfaction, Taste and Cognition, edited by C. Rouby, B. Schaal, D. Dubois, R. Gervais, and A. Holley, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2002; Applied Developmental Science Encyclopedia, edited by C.B. Fisher and R.M. Lerner, Sage Publications (Thousand Oaks, CA), 2004; and The Smell Culture Reader, edited by J. Drobnick, Berg (Oxford, England), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including the American Journal of Psychology, Life Sciences, Brain Behaviour and Evolution, Psychopharmacology, Evolution and Human Behavior, Visual Arts Research, Chemical Senses, Empirical Studies of the Arts, Animal Behaviour, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, International Journal of Comparative Psychology, Memory & Cognition, Human Nature, Sleep, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, and Behaviour, Research and Therapy. Ad hoc reviewer for American Journal of Psychology, Biological Psychology, Chemical Senses, Developmental Psychobiology, Journal of Sleep Research, Memory & Cognition, Neuropsycholo-gia, Physiology and Behavior, Psychological Science, and Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.


Rachel Herz is a leading expert on the psychology of smell and a consultant to the world's largest aromachemical companies. Her research interests include olfactory cognition and emotion with an emphasis on the theme of understanding how biological mechanisms and cognitive processes interact and influence perception, cognition, and behavior. She is also the author of The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell, which examines the importance of smell in people's lives, from nourishment to procreation to relationships with others.

Called "a well-researched and accessible read" by Marcello A. on the Now Smell This blog, The Scent of Desire traces the evolution of the importance of smell in our lives beginning with our ancient ancestors, whose sense of smell was crucial to their existence. According to the author, smell still plays a critical role in everyone's lives, affecting our emotional, physical, and even sexual lives. "From odor-emotional conditioning and olfactive memory to cultural differences in odor familiarity, Herz explains how odors influence our social relationships and mental health," noted Marcello. Ernest Dempsey, writing on the TCM Reviews Web site, commented: "The Scent of Desire explores the biological basis of our olfaction, describes its evolution, and explains how the presence or absence of the ability to smell affects our quality of life."

In her book, Herz profiles a variety of people, including people who have lost their ability to smell. In these profiles, she shows how traumatic the effects of loss of smell are on the quality of day-to-day living. In one case, a woman named Jessica Ross lost her sense of smell in an accident. Afterward Ross began to feel that some people looked at her peculiarly and she began to worry that perhaps she smelled bad but could not detect it because she was anosmic (unable to smell). As a result, Ross began showering twice a day and washing her clothes every day. Nevertheless, she remained worried about having offensive body odor that she could not smell. She also feared other things, including not being able to smell smoke or spoiled food. Overall, the loss of her ability to smell led Ross to become depressed, with a feeling of disconnection from the people around her. Furthermore, Ross seemed to have lost desire for sexual intimacy with her husband. According to the author, Ross's intimacy problems probably stemmed from the fact that people often choose their mates on an instinctive sense of smell. "Herz's theory is that for the human species to thrive, we were instinctively built, biologically, to be attracted to the mate most biologically different from ourselves, to avoid inbreeding and to ensure the survival of the species," wrote Betty Wong on Blogcritics.com.

In addition to explaining the biological bases of scent perception, Herz explores the unusual ways that certain smells in individuals become associated with specific experiences in their lives. The author also writes of various therapies connected with smell, such as using certain fragrances to help treat anxieties. Another avenue she explores is smell and its connection with memory. She offers tips for aiding in memorization, such as using an unusual or familiar fragrance while studying for an exam and then carrying along the same fragrance when it is time to take the test.

Mary Ann Hughes, writing in the Library Journal, called The Scent of Desire "one of those all-too-rare books that is involving, well written, and solidly grounded in research." Referring to the book as "a lively, seductive exploration of what the nose knows," a Kirkus Reviews contributor also noted later in the same review the book's "delightfully unexpected blend of personal anecdotes, pop-cultural erudition and scientific understanding."

Herz told CA: "Ever since I can remember I have loved to write and play with words. When I was a child I wrote poems and long, descriptive mystery stories. My mother is an English professor and she read a lot to my brother and me when we were young. I am sure that was part of what stimulated my imagination to create stories. However, I have not done any fiction writing as an adult except in private. Rather, my writing has been almost exclusively in the mode of scientific research papers and grants, which require very different kind of storytelling. In writing The Scent of Desire, my biggest challenge was learning how to interweave and adapt scientific stories to narrative.

"My primary influences are theoretical, in particular evolutionary theory and learning theory.

"The best time for me to write is in the morning. I usually try to write from 8:00 a.m. to noon, though I am often pulled into e-mail if I am not disciplined with myself. In the afternoon I am less creative but I can edit my work then. I cannot write for long stretches at a time, so it is a good thing that I am involved in many other types of projects. Having a dog is also a great benefit. Walking or jogging with her in the midmorning I am often able to solve various ‘writing’ problems that have come up and I then re-tackle them as soon as I get home.

"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is how different writing popular science is from academic writing and how difficult the transition is to make.

"On a broad level, I hope that my books will explain and illuminate to people, both young and old, the senses of smell and taste, how emotion is integrally involved in these sensory experiences, and the deep connection between our biology and our psychology."



Booklist, September 15, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell, p. 11.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2007, review of The Scent of Desire.

Library Journal, September 15, 2007, Mary Ann Hughes, review of The Scent of Desire, p. 76.

Publishers Weekly, August 27, 2007, review of The Scent of Desire, p. 77.

School Library Journal, December 1, 2007, Sarah Flowers, review of The Scent of Desire, p. 162.

SciTech Book News, December, 2007, review of The Scent of Desire.


Blogcritics.org,http://blogcritics.org/ (November 21, 2007), Betty Wong, review of The Scent of Desire.

Brown Medical School,http://www.brown.edu/Divisions/Medical_School/ (May 1, 2008), faculty profile of author and author's curriculum vitae.

Now Smell This,http://nowsmellthis.blogharbor.com/ (December 2, 2007), Marcello A., review of The Scent of Desire.

Rachel Herz Home Page,http://www.rachelherz.com (May 1, 2008).

Scentology,http://www.scentology.com/ (May 1, 2008), profile of author.

TCM Reviews,http://tcm-ca.com/reviews/ (May 1, 2008), Ernest Dempsey, review of The Scent of Desire.

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