Recently reading Oliver Sacks’s Hallucinations, I discovered a few things. The first was that I regularly experience tactile hallucinations in the form of the notorious “phantom ring” of my cellphone, which is usually set to vibrate. (ETA: I knew I experienced them before I read the book, of course–it just never struck me to say, “Crap, I’m hallucinating again.”)
The other, and the subject of this OP, was that I’m apparently pretty special in being able to imagine scents. “The ability to imagine smells,” Sacks writes, “in normal circumstances, is not that common–most people cannot imagine smells with any vividness, even though they may be very good at imagining sights or sounds.” He goes on to quote a correspondent, who is apparently quite good at it, though he has to link it to “a specific instance” connected with the scent he seeks to imagine.
Me? All I have to do is put my mind to it and then it’s there. Roses? Bam. Onions? Done. Nothing to it. And I’m only fair-to-middlin’ at sight and sound both, though I used to be much better at the former as a child, and still have my moments. (With sufficient concentration, I ain’t half-bad at imagining tactile sensations, though it’s not something I can do casually. Taste, unsurprisingly, is very similar to scent.)
Given that I find this to be simple and straightforward, I’m a bit dubious of Sacks’s claim that it’s uncommon. So I’m turning to you folks, who are certainly more reliable than the brilliant Dr. Sacks, right? What’s your experience with imagining scents?