Research has examined the effect of scents have on mood, behavior, and performance. There is evidence that certain scents produce positive effects in these areas. What is this magical odor that will help me finish my 50-page thesis, you ask? Well, this is where it gets tricky.
Research has shown that there is not necessarily a universal scent, such as mint or a perfume, that will help everyone’s mood. Rachel S. Herz, a professor of psychology at Brown University, explains that the scents that will benefit an individual the most are those associated with a positive mood through experience. The olfactory bulbs are a part of the limbic system and work directly with limbic system structures such as the amygdala, which is associated with the processing of emotional information, and the hippocampus, which deals with associative learning. Therefore, odors are incredibly efficient influences on emotional state due to these close ties between olfaction, associative learning, and emotion.
This effect of odors on mood is what leads to an increase in performance efficiency. Research has found positive correlations between positive mood, as produced by pleasant ambient odors, and various task performances. As positive mood increases, researchers have noted increases in vigilance, efficiency, and creativity. The odors that are most effective at influencing one’s mood will be odors with which one has a positive emotional association. For example, if an individual has fond memories of baking cookies with his/her mother, a cookies scented candle may increase their mood, when it is burned. If this individual burns such a candle in the office, he/she may see increases in job performance.
Psychology Practicum Student