The Psychology of Fragrances and Odors

Fragrances and smells are an essential part of all performances from Oxygon

The secret power of fragrances

Scents and smells are among us. They influence us without us wanting to admit it. Studies have shown: Good smelling products attract much more attention. This was shown in a test run with travel brochures, half of which were scented and the other 50% were not. The result: if an unscented brochure reached a booking value of 100, the perfumed and otherwise completely identical catalog achieved the significantly higher comparison value of 155.

Observations have shown that scents that are not consciously perceived (so-called hidden pathogen scents) often have the greatest influence on human behavior.

The smallest, invisible scent molecules float in the air. We absorb these molecules together with the vital oxygen atoms and the other components of the air with each breath. Through the nose – the feeler of the scent molecules – corresponding information is sent to a specific location in the brain. There this information is processed.

Often, certain scents bring back memories that were thought to be lost for a long time. Since scents and smells are directly linked to our feelings and behavior, they determine our likes and dislikes. They can frighten us or put us in a good mood. As if with invisible threads they connect memory, inspiration, feeling, love and hate.

Some scientists believe they have found explanations for the connection between scents and emotions in the anatomy of the brain. The nerve cords of the olfactory cells in the nose all lead to a certain part of the cerebrum. In the same region of the brain the influence of emotions also takes place.

A further explanation is the fact that numerous nerve cords also lead directly from the nose to the lymphatic system. This has a significant influence on our emotions.

Normally, before scenting, one should carry out an odour removal, which can be done with the same equipment. This is a biological and environmentally friendly way to neutralize and break down negative odor molecules (such as tobacco smoke or sweat). Only then is the now purified air scented with natural scents very finely (usually below the conscious perception limit).

Scent and odour put the icing on the cake. Today they are just as much a design element as light, sound, colors and decoration. Our behavior is controlled by smell and scent. With a pleasant olfactory atmosphere we feel more comfortable. Those who feel good are more generous with their time, more generous with their judgement, more generous with their performance and more generous with their money and consumption.

Smells and scents arouse feelings that elude conscious control. These findings open up new perspectives for us, which is why they have increasingly become the object of research in modern science. The results of the various investigations are both astonishing and fascinating.

The American neurologist and psychiatrist Alan Hirsch scented various one-armed bandits in the casino of the Las Vegas Hilton with an essence that he hoped would stimulate the visitors’ joy of gambling. The American discovered that the scented machines were playing 45% more. Today, he supplies several casinos in the city with his revenue-generating miracle cure.

Another experiment shows that potential customers succumb to the influence of scents to the highest degree. A group of 35 test persons examined a perfectly identical pair of sports shoes in two identical rooms. In one room, the scent of flowers floated slightly, the other was fragrance-free. 84% of the test subjects stated that they liked the sports shoe better in the scented room than in the other.

Men who had to perform monotonous surveillance tasks on screens were less tired, and Japanese secretaries who breathed lemon scent were 54% less likely to miss typing. Even negotiations ran more smoothly with the smell of fresh lemons, as participants were more willing to compromise.

A particularly interesting aspect of the properties of the sense of smell was revealed by the observation that scents that are not consciously perceived (so-called hidden pathogen scents) often have the greatest and most potent influence on human behavior.

Scientists and physicians are on the trail of the secret power of scents. In the air that surrounds us like an invisible veil, tiny parts, so-called scent molecules, float. We absorb these molecules together with the vital oxygen atoms and the other components of the air with every breath we take.

There are millions of olfactory cells in the nose that recognize the incoming scent molecules. However, the nose is only a feeler. It only recognizes the molecules and sends information to a specific location in the brain as soon as it recognizes an olfactory molecule. There the information is processed.

In this way it is possible for humans to recognize and clearly classify an enormous amount of different scents and smells. Often, certain scents bring back memories that have long been lost to new life. Fragrances give us the magic of the moment.

Today, the sense of smell is overtaxed as more and more man-made chemicals are released into the environment. Especially in the age of industrialization, the sense of smell has lost much of its importance. The nose often perceives dangerous synthetic substances as pleasant. Science has succeeded in explaining the process of the olfactory process, at least in its beginnings.

However, researchers are still eagerly on the trail of the miraculous ability of scents to influence human behavior. Some of them believe they have found explanations for the connection between scents and emotions in the anatomy of the brain. The nerve cords that the olfactory cells in the nose use to pass on information from recognized scent molecules all lead to a specific part of the cerebrum. The olfactory process only takes place in this very specific part of the brain, the so-called olfactory center. In the same region of the brain the influence of emotions also takes place.

The fact that the processing of perceptions of the sense of smell and the influencing of emotions take place at almost the same place in the brain could be an explanation for the intensive connection of the sense of smell with the emotional world. A further explanation for this fact is the fact that numerous nerve cords also lead directly from the nose to the lymphatic system. This has a decisive influence on our emotions.

But it is not only natural scientists and physicians who are concerned with the supposed magic of scents. The forces of marketing also deal with the effects of scents. However, their interest in the world of fragrances has a practical background. They have recognized the potential that lies in the targeted use of scents.

The fragrance industry is booming. In the USA, sales are already in the billions. There seem to be no limits to the expansion drive of this rapidly growing industry in the foreseeable future, as the extraordinary property of fragrances to have a direct and rationally uncontrollable influence on human emotions has long been misunderstood.

The long lasting ignorance and nonchalance of western industrial societies towards the sense of smell has created a powerful market gap, the potential of which is far from being exhausted.