How The Scent Of A Room Affects Your Mood

Has the scent of the room ever changed the way you feel? Did the smell of freshly baked bread or picked flowers suddenly lift your mood?

A powerful scent may certainly be described as intoxicating, but scientists now believe that the effect on your mood is due to the memory associations that the smell produces rather than chemical reactions released by the odour.

The Science Of Smells
Leaving behind such scientific terms such as olfaction (a posh word for the process of smelling) and limbic structures such as the amygdala and hippocampus (the parts of the brain that deal with processing emotions and learning), our noses are, perhaps surprisingly to some, essential in learning to identify what we like or dislike.
The glossy smell of a new book or doughy waft of freshly baked bread produce a much different reaction from the smell of rotting food or the unmistakable odour of gas. Associating smell with consequences at a young age helps us to work out what is safe and what is potentially a threat.

Inheriting Odours
Some studies even suggest that children ‘inherit’ some of their preferences for smells whilst still babies inside the mother’s womb.  Mothers who liked particularly smelly substances such as garlic or who smoked, had children who were more likely to develop the same tastes in later life - compared to the children of those mothers who did not share the same tastes.  

Cultural Differences
Although many tastes are developed in early childhood where novelty and learning is at its highest, many studies have also shown that tastes vary across cultures. One man’s meat is indeed another man’s poison.
It follows that the associative memories that odours produce then lead to the change of mood. Studies have shown that smell has a direct effect on a person’s mood. This isn’t just restricted to how we are feeling; in addition to mood changes, there can also be physiological effects such as changes to heartbeat and skin conditions.

Scent Tactics
Perhaps unsurprisingly, smell has been used by marketing firms long before the scientific explanations were known.  A classic example is American real estate agents leaving freshly baked blueberry pies to cool on the window ledge to woo perspective buyers.
The modern day equivalent has become known as ‘scent marketing’, and a large number of advertising companies are getting in on the act. A growing number of retailers are using scent in stores with impressive results. For example, Nike reported an increase in sales of 80% after using a scent in store.
America is, of course, the pioneer of introducing scents in retailing and other businesses; however the UK is catching up with companies such as Scent Air UK boasting an impressive number of clients worldwide.

Scents In Schools
It is not just marketing and selling where scent presents an exciting prospect - it also has great potential in motivating children in schools across the country.  If scent has an effect on the way we feel and pupil’s performance at school has a lot to do with their mood, influences concentration and other behaviours; a relatively simple idea such as exposing pupils to a smell they find pleasurable could have a beneficial impact on their education. 

Robert Dickson has a strong nose and looks at how scent affects mood. He writes for Ambius NL.

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