Smells like clean spirit. Nonconscious effects of scent on cognition and behavior

Psychol Sci. 2005 Sep;16(9):689-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01597.x.


Three studies explored whether odor can influence people's cognition and behavior without their being consciously aware of the influence. In two studies, we tested and confirmed that when participants were unobtrusively exposed to citrus-scented all-purpose cleaner, the mental accessibility of the behavior concept of cleaning was enhanced, as was indicated by faster identification of cleaning-related words in a lexical decision task and higher frequency of listing cleaning-related activities when describing expected behavior during the day. Finally, a third study established that the mere exposure to the scent of all-purpose cleaner caused participants to keep their direct environment more clean during an eating task. Awareness checks showed that participants were unaware of this influence. The present studies reveal the nonconscious influence that olfactory cues can have on thinking and doing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cognition*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odorants*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Unconscious, Psychology*
  • Vocabulary