The Sweet Smell of Success
So, we all know that scent plays a huge role in every facet of our modern day-to-day lives. From fabulous food to horrible hygiene, our nose dictates our wants and desires, often overriding our best intentions.
But what if I told you that you could tame that rogue sense to become your greatest motivational ally?
Researchers have now uncovered the key scent notes of ‘success’, techniques using scent to improve recall, and which scent to use to improve motivation and mood.
WHAT DOES SUCCESS SMELL LIKE?
So, if you want to be successful, it makes it a lot easier to nail that jelly to the wall if you know what success ‘actually’ smells like! Although marketing researchers found that the ‘smell of success’ is perceived differently to women and men, they could pin it down to a set of very particular scents.
When asked what scents participants associated most with successful people, this is what researchers found:
The top 5 success-inspiring scents for women were:
While men chose:
Researchers also found that single notes, for example just patchouli or honeysuckle, were not as successful as combined groups of the scents noted above.
While the least success-inspiring scents were:
HOW TO USE IT:
Based on this research, it would make sense to choose a fragrance which includes some of the above ‘success-inspiring’ notes when you are trying to be perceived as a successful and confident person, for example during an interview or at a high school reunion. Just don’t go too far and pretend you invented post it notes like Romy & Michelle!
HOW TO ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE
Cognitive psychologist, Dr Simon Chu, has shown that using scent can increase or decrease success simply by the power of association. Participants were given a three second blast of either incense or bergamot, then were told to find their way through what was actually an unsolvable maze.
The smell of ‘failure’ then went on to haunt them when they were given a solvable maze with the same odour. The participants performed badly because of the previous scent association with doing badly.
But Dr Chu also proved that success could be similarly improved by associating a particular scent with a previous positive experience. A group of school children sat very simple tests in a room scented with either peppermint or strawberry tea. They began to associate these smells with doing well at exams.
They were then given a test described to them as meant for the year above, and the group who had linked their successful performances with the positive pongs of the tea performed much better when they sat their test in a room filled with tea scented goodness, than those without the scented association!
HOW TO USE IT:
You can utilise scent in the same way by linking positive experiences with a chosen scent ahead of time and then taking that scent with you when you feel you need to perform. In theory, the reassurance of the ‘positive scent’ should help you perform at your best!
BLAST FROM THE PAST
In other research by Dr Simon Chu, participants smelt orange or lavender while memorising words. Those that had the recurring smell at test time had an improved recall of between 15 and 20 percent.
HOW TO USE IT:
Choose a signature scent when you are dedicating facts to memory or even when you have a special event you want to remember forever. In theory, your memory should be refreshed every time your recall is linked with the scent and you’ll have a better recollection.
MINTY FRESH SUCCESS!
Researchers have found that peppermint is a key motivational tool for athletes and it could work for you too!
The athletes in this study were delivered peppermint through a nasal cannula during their exertion and the most surprising result was not the physical one, but the mental perception of how they had performed:
“Analyses revealed that peppermint odour significantly reduced perceived physical workload, temporal workload, effort and frustration. Self-evaluated performance was also greater in the peppermint condition.”
“The application of peppermint odour prior to or during athletic competitions, may help to increase an athlete’s motivation, mood and image.” 
HOW TO USE IT:
What these findings mean is that peppermint is a useful scent to increase your perception of how hard you are actually working, so in theory peppermint should give you the mental push to go further in your workouts. Try adding some chilled peppermint tea or some fresh peppermint leaves to your water in your workout bottle and take a sniff every time you are flagging.
In a study at NYC Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, a vanilla perfume was shown to reduce anxiety in patients before they underwent MRIs, and in other research vanilla has also emerged clearly as a scent for creating happiness and relaxation .
HOW TO USE IT:
When life has given you lemons, hit it in the face with some vanillary goodness and float away to your vanilla ‘happy place’! If you think you are in for a stressful day, pop a few drops of vanilla onto some cotton balls inside a small tin or container, and then open them for a quick burst of happy whenever you need it throughout the day.
1. Raudenbush, B., Meyer, B., & Eppich, B. (2002b). Effects of odor administration on objective and subjective measures of athletic performance. International Sports Journal. 6, 14-27. http://67-20-110-78.unifiedlayer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/The_Effects_of_Odors_on_Objective.pdf
3. Redd, WH., Manne, SL., Peters, B., Jacobsen PB., & Schmidt, H. (1994). Fragrance administration to reduce anxiety during MR imaging. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7949692
4. Chu, S. (2008). Olfactory Conditioning of Positive Performance in Humans https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/chemse/bjm063
5. Chu, S., Downes, JJ,. (2000). Proust nose best: Odors are better cues of autobiographical memory https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/chemse/bjm063
6. Warrenburg, S. (2005). Effects of Fragrance on Emotions: Moods and Physiology https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article/30/suppl_1/i248/270387/Effects-of-Fragrance-on-Emotions-Moods-and
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN VINTAGE LIFE MAGAZINE MAY 2017