Smells: The Aroma of Persuasion
We all know what the smell of movie popcorn does to us. Smell is directly linked to our emotions. Our sense of smell is so powerful that it can quickly trigger associations with memories and emotions. Our olfactory system is a primitive sense that is wired directly to the center of our brain. By four to six weeks, infants can tell the difference between their own mother’s scent and that of a stranger. Almost everyone has experienced situations in which a smell evoked a nostalgic (or not so nostalgic) memory. Think of the smells that take you back to your childhood. For some it is the smell of fresh baked bread, or freshly cut grass, or of the neighborhood swimming pool. You can go back twenty years in a matter of seconds with the sense of smell. Smells require little mental effort to be experienced and the subconscious reaction happens with little conscious attention.
There have been numerous studies conducted on the impact scent and fragrances have on association. A study conducted among undergraduate students found that female students wearing perfume were rated as more attractive by male students. Scents were even found to improve scores on job evaluations. Of course, offensive odors can also be used (and have been used) to evoke a negative response. This technique was once used while campaign committees were rating and appraising political slogans. Not surprisingly offensive odors caused the ratings for the slogans to go down. The smell of citrus Windex helped people to be more generous with their money and time towards the habitat of humanity. Cleaning aromas also help more people be honest and fair and their dealings with others.