Lucy: My dad’s a fisherman; he and my brother Doug, they go out to sea for months at a time and I miss them so much while they’re gone that when they come back I just hold on to them for five minutes each. And they smell just like your hands, it’s the best smell in the world.
Henry: Well, my fingers are available for your sniffing pleasure anytime you need them. Wanna?
How come Lucy is so friendly with Henry? Or rather, why does she trust him so quickly that she allows him to sit at her table? Could it be because of the strong smell that makes everything seem so familiar?
It would seem to be so. Lucy gives a very simple explanation. Technically, in Neuro Linguistic Programming, they are called “anchors” (in this case, we are faced with a smell stimulus); when you smell a scent, listen to a song or imagine a place, you feel the very same emotions as in the past.
In the scene, Lucy lists all features which turn an external stimulus (the smell of fish) into an anchor which provides access to emotions (the feeling of happiness and familiarity) whenever necessary.
In order for an anchor to work, it must:
1) be triggered at an emotional peak (in fact Lucy hugs her father and her brother every time they return from long trips away, when her happiness in seeing them is uncontrollable)
2) be repeated several times so that it sticks in the emotional memory of the subject (Lucy clearly states “they go out to sea for months at a time”, therefore their trips are frequently repeated in a year)
3) be associated to a strong stimulus (the smell of fish)
Incidentally, the anchor would work all the same, without the smell of the fish, if Lucy repeated a word several times in her mind exactly at the peak moment in which she feels the emotion. Consequently, all she would have to do is repeat the word to feel exactly the same emotions.