Wanting to test the notion that smells can influence behavior, the scientists had eight young men and women stand outside either a bakery or a clothing store, says the Independent. The participants were instructed to pretend to be searching for something in their bags and then drop an object (a glove, a handkerchief) while walking in front of a stranger.
People stopped to pick up the object about 77 percent of the time in front of the bakery, versus 52 percent of the time outside the clothing store, according to the researchers who observed the proceedings from some 60 feet away.
Eight participants is a small number but the scientists did repeat the experiment some 400 times, notes the Daily Mail. From their observations, they state that
“Our results show that, in general, spontaneous help is offered more in areas where pleasant ambient smells are spread.”
“This experiment confirms the role of ambient food odours on altruism.”
One wonders at possible practical applications of this study. Could the answer to us all getting along, dealing with anger management, turning the other cheek for each other and so forth — to nothing other than world peace! — be to waft the scent of bread baking around?
While contemplating such, here are four more smells that have been found to lift up our spirits.
Researchers from Wheeling Jesuit University found that the smell of peppermint boosted both mood and motivation in competitive athletes by making them run faster, do more push-ups and squeeze a hand grip harder.
The smell of American spice apple has been found to help reduce blood pressure. Perhaps that’s why a cup of warm apple cider seems so inviting, not to mention the smell of an apple pie baking?
Or more precisely, roasted coffee beans: a South Korean study found that this aroma reduces stress in rats. Scientists found that lab rats (who certainly have reason to be stressed) had lower stress levels after smelling roasted coffee beans.
As a serious coffee drinker, I would agree with this. But one has to wonder if not all smells are created equal for all people. My husband does not drink any coffee and is no big fan of the smell — but then, in some twenty years of daily contact with coffee’s aroma, he has never once complained.