Researcher Adriana Madzharov, a business professor from the Stevens Institute of Technology, did an experiment where 100 undergraduate students took a 10-question GMAT algebra test.
Half of the students were exposed to coffee fragrance in the testing room and the other half took the test in an unscented but otherwise identical room. The group in the coffee scented room score significantly higher on the test.
To determine why the coffee smell had this major effect on cognition and academic performance, she took another group of students and gave them a questionnaire about their beliefs about various scents. Participants said that they thought they would be more alert and energetic when in a coffee scented environment, compared to a flower-scented or unscented environment.
Madzharov concluded that the boost in analytical performance was at least partially based on a placebo effect. Whether or not the fragrance had a physiological influence on thinking or if it simply boosted confidence that translated into better performance, the end result is the same. Coffee scent significantly improves performance on analytical tasks.
Madzharov is planning to do more research to see if coffee smell has a similar effect on verbal reasoning. In the meantime, she sees a variety of uses for academics as well as in businesses that use math such as architecture, engineering and accounting offices.
Other research has found similar performance improvements from environmental scenting using lemon, peppermint and rosemary. Lemon scent reduced clerical errors, while rosemary improved speed and accuracy and peppermint enhanced memory, reasoning, concept formation, attention span, and problem solving. In a separate study, peppermint scent improved athletic performance as well.
Nearly every organization wants its employees to think clearly and be good at problem solving, and environmental scenting can help make this a reality. Contact your Air Esscentials rep to find out how you can put a scenting system in place at your business to boost performance.