Cool — and Clean! — Science

2 10 2006

I can tell Cognitive Daily will be one of my new best friends. This reminds me of the Hawthorne Effect except with real sensory triggers rather than feigned ones:

“Smells Like Clean Spirit” is a report by Rob Holland, Merel Hendricks, and Henk Aarts, in which they use smells to unconsciously modify their victims’ participants’ behavior. In some ways, this research is nothing new. cookieAs the researchers point out, if we smell chocolate chip cookies, we may decide to eat; if we smell a garbage truck, we may walk faster down the street. We might associate pine scent with Christmas, or pheromones with sex.

But most of these associations involve people being conscious of the odor and its impact. Holland’s team wanted to demonstrate that scent could impact behavior even if people aren’t conscious of it. . .

They created a “cleaning-related” odor in the office where they conducted their study by putting a citrus-scented cleaning liquid in a large bucket of warm water hidden behind a cubicle wall.

fanned out mop and bucket

Next, they asked volunteers to do a simple word-identification task where real words and nonsense words were flashed on a computer screen. Participants pressed a button when they saw the real words, and reaction time was measured. Half the time, the room was citrus-scented, and half the time, there was no scent.
Here are the results:

(There are color graphs, go see!)



3 responses

2 10 2006

LOL — I liked Kevin’s (slightly evil) response.


2 10 2006

It’s true, only a highly developed moral sense stands between us and shameless exploitation of such knowledge. Think of what power mad schools could do with this Smell-o-Vision technique! And come to think of it, why don’t they?


2 10 2006

Remember that blurb we laughed about a couple of years back — a perfume lab discovered a spicy-floral scent for women that made men perceive them as six pounds lighter than when no scent was worn? Wonder if we could rustle that report up and post it, with no more to go on than that? JJ

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