Creating Inherited Memories: Can We Make Thrill Seeking Hereditary?

cherry blossom

Scientists have found experimental evidence that mice whose father or grandfather had learned to associate the smell of cherry blossom with an electric shock exhibited nervous tendencies when they smelled the same odour. (New Scientist article “Fear of a smell can be passed down several generations” based on research by Brian Dias at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta)

The research points to a biological mechanism which allows memories to be inherited and is backed up by previous studies suggesting that stressful events can affect the emotional behaviour of future generations. The theory is that a process, known as epigenetic inheritance, can make chemical changes to DNA in response to emotional responses.

Although the theories have not been definitively proved, and smell is unusual among the senses in that the genes controlling the body’s response to it can be relatively easily identified, extrapolating the theory (in a wildly unscientific manner) could have interesting relevance for the experience economy.

To what extent can we influence the emotional reactions of our descendants through our own experiences? By seeking out and enjoying thrill rides will we produce children and grandchildren who will be more inclined to be rollercoaster nuts? Similarly could a scare on a coaster at an impressionable age mean that our progeny will shy away from adrenaline fuelled rides?

It is the goal of most visitor attractions to provide guests with happy memories in order to generate customer loyalty and of course repeat visits. Perhaps the positive experiences of individuals could actually create a propensity for brand loyalty from a whole family for future generations!

It certainly gives a rather longer term meaning to Herschend Family Entertainment’s vision: “Creating Memories Worth Repeating “!