The Subconscious Brain: Scents


How scents can influence you.

A local police department from the Netherlands is starting a remarkable scent-experiment in which they can relax aggressive-inmates with the use of a special odor. Through the ventilation system they spread a barely noticeable orange flavor mixed with a neutralizing scent FM. The effects where astonishing, the inmates where calmer, needed less medicine, showered more and more often used the toilet. They think they can save about €665.000 on medicine in one year.

In another experiment, published in 2005, Dutch psychologists had undergraduates sit in a cubicle and fill out a questionnaire. Hidden in the room was a bucket of water with a splash of citrus-scented cleaning fluid, giving off a faint odor. After completing the questionnaire, the young men and women had a snack, a crumbly biscuit provided by laboratory staff members.

The researchers covertly filmed the snack time and found that these students cleared away crumbs three times more often than a comparison group, who had taken the same questionnaire in a room with no cleaning scent. “That is a very big effect, and they really had no idea they were doing it,” said Henk Aarts, a psychologist at Utrecht University and the senior author of the study.

Humans can differentiate more then 10.000 scents. And as it seems these scents have a great impact on our emotions. They have, whether we want it or not, influence on our appetite, libido, body-temperature, heartbeat, stress-tolerance, well-being and concentration. And this makes it a very powerful marketing tool.

The Dutch Railways used a special odor to keep their commuters feeling calmer and safer. In the second-hand car business they spray used car with the chemical scent which reminds us of new products. Many supermarkets blow there fresh baked bread scents into the store to make their costumers more hungry and hope they will buy more.

Another nobel use of scents lies in health care. On the child’s-department radiology of the Miami Hospital they completely rebuild their research facilities into a tropical paradise. Their changing rooms are little beach-condo’s, instead of their hospital shorts they can wear swimming cloths. The MRI scan is a giant sand-castle. Speakers play the sound of the ocean and seabirds. And the room smells like the ocean, the beach and cocos and in the MRI scan they spray a vanilla scent to avoid claustrophobia. The end-result is fantastic. Less use of anesthetics and calmer patients.

12 Responses to “The Subconscious Brain: Scents”

  1. Hello. I’m currently researching the interplay of scent and design for my masters thesis. These are great examples, any chance you have the papers or citations where you found them? It would be wonderful to be able to reference them.

    thank you!

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  1. 1 The Subconscious Brain: Part 1 | Shrinknet
  2. 2 The Subconscious Brain: Sound « Design / Marketing / Psychology

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