Jacobson's Organ: And the Remarkable Nature of Smell

Lyall Watson, Author
Lyall Watson, Author W. W. Norton & Company $24.95 (255p) ISBN 978-0-393-04908-4
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 255 pages - 978-0-452-28258-2
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-393-24493-9
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-393-33291-9
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There's little doubt that smell plays a significant role in the lives of humans. Watson (Beyond Supernature), like many before him, argues convincingly that odors are superb at rekindling lost memories. He is also in good company when he asserts that some smells and some pheromones often have consequential but unconscious effects on humans. Beyond rehashing what has become widely accepted, Watson attempts to discuss the importance of Jacobson's Organ, the ""unconscious partner to the nose."" Jacobson's Organ, also called the vomeronasal organ, consists of two small pits in front of the nasal septum with nerves feeding directly to the most primitive, limbic area of the brain. Scientists believe that the vomeronasal organ in humans, as in reptiles, can sense large molecules that have no impact on our ordinary sense of smell. Watson claims that it is ""a chemical clearing house for subliminal impressions, for... bad vibes, warm fuzzies, instant dislikes and irresistible attractions. Just the sort of will-o'-the-wisps with which any decent sixth sense ought to be concerned."" Perhaps there is a sixth sense mediated by Jacobson's Organ. The problem, however, is that Watson spends virtually all of his time providing eclectic information on the traditional sense of smell, only alluding to Jacobson's Organ. Only in his final chapter does he focus on it directly; and there, to his credit, he writes, ""everything that follows here is pure speculation on my behalf."" As with his earlier work, Watson provides tantalizing conjectures, but his uncritical acceptance of the paranormal reduces his credibility. (Apr.)
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