Purpose of the bachelor thesis
A business is like a raft in the ocean. Whether you are a giant cargo ship or a lifeboat, to survive you need to adapt to the currents and the waves of what is happening around you. Even in these turbulent seas of change we need employees that can uphold a high performance. So that even that Ultra Large Container Ships is able to thrive in the future.
Transforming a business doesn't happen in a snap of a finger. Still, in the entire scope of the transformation and while anxiety and stress levels rise companies want to be able to maintain a high-performance culture. So how do we create a relaxing environment that will provide an anchor? To find answers on how to do that: let's look at our senses.
We have 5 senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Each one of them provides us with capabilities to gather data to form a perception of our reality. Each of those senses comes with a biological sensor, also named sense organ or sense system. For sight we have a vision sensor, for hearing we have an auditory organ, for touch we use our somatosensory organ, for taste we have a gustation sensor and finally for smell we use our olfaction system.
In this bachelor thesis I will take a closer look at our olfaction system. I want to find an answer to the question: How does changing the odour on the work floor aids in maintaining high performance employees?
The goal is to identify how impactful influencing the olfaction organ can be on somebody's mental state. The second goal is to see if we can alter somebody's behaviour as well. In my conclusion I will give some advice about striving towards a Proustian workplace in our pursuit of attaining a high-performance organisation that can deal with an ever-changing working environment.
To aid employees in delivering high performance, even in times of change, Japanese companies have resorted to experimenting with scented offices. These scented offices help them create the environment that allows their employees to soar, which in turns results in to benefits for the company itself.
For example, Takasago Corporation uses lemon scented rooms to increase the performance of the employees in that room. Their conclusion was that lemon increased the productivity with nearly 55% while Jasmine scented rooms and lavender scented rooms only increase the productivity with approximately 35% and 20% respectively. These conclusions were backed-up by professor Umezu from the National Institute for Environmental Studies, who did the experiment on mice. He concluded that lavender has the same effect as diazepam which would explain why lavender was perceived as more calming and relaxing.
The Meikai University School of Dentistry in Japan found that lavender significantly decreased the stress hormone, cortisol. In the same study they discovered that linalool, an important component in lemons reduced our fight-or-flight stress response.
Shimuzu is another leading Japanese company that firmly believes in the future of scented offices. They are a construction and interior design company that encloses a ‘scent system', such as air conditioning into their design sketches. Shimuzu uses the term “environmental fragrancing” to talk about their hidden air-condition system in the ceiling. They release a fresh scent every 6 minutes. Since October 1992 they are on the payroll of 8 different companies. Shimuzu says that their clients have seen an increase in alertness and concentration, while decreasing stress levels on the work floor.
Although Takasago and Shimuzu were one of the first companies to experiment with scent, many have companies have followed them. Besides companies using scent in the office, research about the benefits of different scents on employees has bloomed.
One of the companies that is following in the footsteps of Takasago and Shimuzu is Yamato International. CEO Tomoki Hannya infused their air conditioning with Japanese cedar after research, from the Japan's Forestry Agency, proved that it would increase the productivity of the employees as well as make the office a more relaxing and cheerful place to be. Hannya stated that “the sense of calm also encouraged communication.” “I wanted to keep our company competitive over the next 10 years. I felt that improving discourse among staff was crucial."
After Japan, the USA has picked up the pace in researching and experimenting with scent on the work floor. The most famous example is the ‘citrus scent in the scrub rooms of hospitals'. This study was conducted among 165 healthcare practitioners in a Floridian hospital. 48% were subjected to a citrus scent that was automatically dispersed by a motion detecting air refresher. 52% were the control group. The hospital employees that were exposed to the citrus scent complied with hygiene regulations 80% of the time, as opposed to the control group that complied with the hygiene regulations only 52% of the time. A difference of 28%. This study has been re-tested 5 years later in a different hospital in Florida, among 404 healthcare practitioners but yielded similar results. (The difference in this study was approximately 32%)
The topic of altering odours on the work floor is yet to be unveiled in the mainstream media. Still many scientists and psychologists hold congruent views on how successful the implementation of changing odours on the work floor would be, to influence both the employee's mental state and their behaviour. Although this topic is yet to win popularity in the field of human resources, the controversy surrounding it, has been there since the beginning.
"There is plenty of case law to suggest that employers have the right to run their businesses as they see fit." says Jonathan Brain at the law firm Mills Kemp and Brown. "But introducing aromas without consent could put the employers in breach of contract"
According to William Cain, a professor of environmental health and psychology at Yale, “we are in a transition zone between using fragrances for personal aesthetics and expecting functional benefits from them.”
"We've known from ancient time that fragrances also influence how we feel, whether it's to make us feel energized, relaxed or sexy," Cain says.
"But there's so much research and background that needs to be understood before these (mood-altering fragrances) can be used.”
Susan Schiffman, a clinical psychologist on the staff of Duke University Medical Center, believes that using fragrances to affect our lives for the better is well within the realm of possibility. However, she stresses the fact that these fragrances must be properly employed.
"You know how, if you smell ammonia, you kind of perk up."
Some researchers state that altering scents in offices will improve our lives by reducing stress, heightening alertness and productivity, deepening relaxation, and more.
On the other hand, allergists, dermatologists and environmental experts mention that employees may be negatively inflicted by increased scented offices. The indoor air at work is already polluted enough.
What's in a name?
Defining high performance
According to the Oxford-Cambridge dictionary the definition for high-performance is as followed: Someone or something that is “able to operate to a high standard and at high speed”.
At ING they actively create an environment in which employees can achieve that.
According to a study held by MIT the key factors to creating an environment in which high-performance can thrive are:
• Leadership that excels at coordinating and that engages team members
• Open, clear and effective communication: especially when the tone of the discourse is energetic, engaging and exploring. Communication was the most important indicator of assessing an atmosphere that will support and encourage high performance.
• Diversity in viewpoints, experience, job expertise and socio-demographic backgrounds
• Trust in both horizontal hierarchy and vertical hierarchy
• Able to manage conflict: there is a positive outlet for frustration and concerns
• Clear goals that resonates commitment and engagement with the employee
• A well outlined job description and job function: employees need to know how their actions contribute to success
So, what does olfaction mean?
Olfaction is the chemistry and psychological response to odour. Olfaction has many purposes, among which detecting hazards, pheromones, food, and triggering memories, …
Olfaction gives ‘colour' to a smell. It's one of our most primitive senses, and the one that we know the least of. Our olfactory perception is fundamental for our survival, thanks to human evolution our olfaction organ has develop to aid that.
Olfaction relates to our basic needs involving our internal equilibrium, potential hazards and incentives. A food odour becomes especially appetizing when we are hungry, the odours causes us to actively seek out food and encourages us to consume it. Our olfactory system is biologically designed to balance the internal equilibrium, especially when it involves needs like hunger and thirst. (Darwin, 1872).
Our sense don't all work in a separate vacuum. To form a perception of reality our senses work together in a rich environment with influences of both internal and external states.
Olfactory perception is not ‘just' smell, it's the meaning of that smell. It is the memory, or the involuntary warning that is attached to that smell. And it's the emotion that is attached to the smell. Whether this process happens consciously or unconsciously.
What is the Proustian memory effect?
Evolutionarily speaking, an unpleasant smell, for example a dead animal, triggers an immediate reflex to run. On the other hand, a pleasant smell, such as fresh baked bread (that your grandmother used to make) triggers an automatic sense of safety.
This is what researchers have coined as the “Proustian memory effect”. Memories, and especially childhood memories are linked to scent. These connections stay with people throughout their life. The earlier the memory is formed the stronger the connection.
Producers and manufacturers have used this effect to make consumers spend more. Therefore, scent in marketing has long been influencing packaging, product displays and even advertising to persuade consumers to buy a specific product or to buy more products.
Rachel Herz, an assistant professor at the Brown university, studied how the scent of a product evokes personal emotional memories, which caused the product to be more appealing to potential consumers.
As mentioned above these "Proustian memories" are usually formed early in life and are extremely powerful in driving human behaviour. The study of Herz was about using scent to drive consumer behaviour, but this can also be applied to employees. Christopher Bergland says that the odours that are around you steer your behaviour. He mentions that these odours can be used as an instrument to create a mind-set on demand, and that they can be used to increase your drive to achieve a specific behaviour.
For example, Rob Holland, Merel Hendriks and Henk Aarts conducted an experiment in which 22 undergraduate students were asked to eat a biscuit, half of them were exposed to a perfume diffuser with all-purpose cleaner (with citrus tones), the other half was not exposed to scent. The students that were exposed to the cleaning solution with citrus scent cleaned their table of 4 times, while the control group only cleaned up their table once. This was the second time that the experiment has been done. Aarts & Dijksterhuis did the original experiment in 2003. Aarts & Dijksterhuis concluded that the behaviour is triggered unconsciously by the scent, because the focus was on the food. No one had been aware of cleaning up the crumbs. “Only one student out of 11, of the test group noticed the scent.”
Both Gottfried (2010) and Dima et al (2011) research the topic of ‘the connection between memories and the amygdala'. The amygdala, a small cluster of neurons, is the key emotion region. It plays a large role in processing odours and connecting them via memories to emotions. (Gottfried, 2010). Dima et al (2011) discovered that particularly anxiety is a strong trigger to recall memories. Smells that are consciously or unconsciously linked to memories that brought us anxiety have a higher chance of changing our behaviour concluded Dima et al (2011).
Could modifying the olfaction perception change the mental state of a person?
Olfaction and the Mindset of High Performance
Building on Bergland, Atanasova says that we should be aware of the power that specific, every day smells can give to serve as an instrument to alter a mind-set. Atanasova et al say that the synergy between scent and emotions (through memories) shouldn't be underestimated. They state that scent can be used to relive positive memories that are personally linked to the employee. At the same time, they warn that ill-use of scent, deliberate or not, can create an opposite effect.
Not only can you change the employee's mental state, by inducing memories you can also alter the behaviour of the employee to the point where they perform better.
Our physical workplace can help or set us back when it comes to productivity and high performance. Social interaction and communication can be limited or boosted by structural, ergonomic and even aesthetic design of office spaces and outdoor areas. Non-verbal communication is an important aspect to interpret a message. Spaces, whether indoor or outdoor that encourage the use of our senses will increase our performance.
An area that enables us to make visual contact such as eye contact, or that is auditory friendly, by allow a better use of voice volume; were tactile exploration is encouraged (for example shaking hands, High5's, ….) and olfactory stimuli is welcome, can be triggered or disheartened by the layout and design of workspaces. Designing and placement of walls, cubicles, furniture, along with the size, orientation, light intensity, noise level, temperature, airflow, and air quality should be done with the effect on our senses in mind.
Olfaction and the Proustian memory effect
The Proustian memory effects states that olfactory cues are the most potent of all our senses to trigger memories and the connected emotions.
As mentioned before, scents have the power to change our mental states and besides that they also have the power to influence our behaviour, either on a conscious or unconscious level. This effect was first researched in the area of consumer spending behaviour.
The study about the Proustian memory effect of scent on consumers showed that products with a smell that triggered a positive memory were perceived as better products, or products that would give more pleasure. The results concluded that if a scent was considered pleasant and induced positive emotional memories that the product was perceived as a product of high quality. Product that smelled pleasant but didn't induce memories didn't alter the participant's perception of the product. The study shows that Proustian memories can alter your view of products purely based on scent, if the scent is connected to a person's memory.
When researchers saw this positive effect in increasing the amount of money that consumers spend under the effect of scented marketing, the research focus shifted to a new domain: using scent in a work-related setting.
Before researching the effect of scent in a typical workplace setting researcher have been studying the positive effects of scent on performance in general. For example, Zoladz, Raudenbush and Lilley (2004) have studied the effect of peppermint and cinnamon scents in sport performance. They found out that simply inhaling peppermint did not have any significant effect on sport performance but using peppermint scented oils did increase the performance up to 22%. The results were explained by the effect of peppermint scent on an increase in the respiratory and brain oxygen concentration.
Other researchers have experimented with the effects of peppermint and cinnamon scents among one of them is Meamarbashi who concluded that peppermint scented oils that are either inhaled or consumed orally both have an equal effect on the increase in attention span, visual recognition and working memory.
Rachel Herz et al, have found that scents that are perceived as pleasant can influence behaviour when it comes to social interaction. That would support the findings of Meamarbashi of the benefits of an increase in attention span, visual recognition and a better working memory regarding social interaction.
The Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation of Chicago did a study in 2010 in which the scents pumpkin and Lavender decreased the anxiety in men by 40%. The same study revealed that liquorice and cucumber showed the same result with women.
Claire Wyart et al, studied the effects of male sweat on women. The findings indicated that smelling androstadienone, which is a component that makes male sweat smell different from female sweat, lowers the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol in women. The effect of lowered cortisol levels was a lower blood pressure, feeling more relaxed and less headaches. Which resulted in performing better and feeling more energized.
How to disperse scent?
For the practical side of the bachelor thesis, I want to conduct a test in which I use scent to see what effect it has on the people in that room. Many experiments in the literature that I researched used different kinds of diffusion methods. From automatic motion detectors air refreshers, to scented oils that have been heated to HVAC systems. The only thing that these scent diffusers had in common was that you couldn't see them. They were either hidden in plain sight (such as the automatic motion detectors, or adjusted hand sanitizers in which scent had been deliberately added) or just plain hidden from view (such as hidden in ceilings, plants...)
Vimalanathan and Babu are two of the researchers that studied the influences of temperature, and medium on scent dispersion. The temperature that suited best was 21°C, the best system seemed to be the ventilation system. Which falls between the brackets that the United States of Labour department recommends: “OSHA recommends temperature control in the range of 68-76° F” Which translates to 20-24°C. The Helsinki University of Technology Laboratory for Heating, Ventilating and Air-conditioning states that the average temperature at work should be 21-22 °C for optimal work performance.
Ideally the air conditioning or ventilation system would be best to experiment with dispersing scent. But there is some risk involved in ‘polluting' the ventilation system with scent. Below you can find some benefits from good ventilation and some negative effects from corrupted ventilation systems.
Wargocki et al studied the effect of ventilation on clear thinking and improved performance at work. The test subjects of the experiment reported to feeling better, besides this perceived self-assessment. Wargocki et al. also found that the test subject performed the tasks with a higher accuracy.
Lan et al. found that poor ventilation has a negative effect on wellbeing perceived by employees (e.g. the reported that the workload was heavier, had more difficulties to maintain the same performance and they felt that their overall motivation was lower). Besides the perceived downsides their heart rate in rest was higher which lead to more agitation concluded Lan et al. The higher temperature also reduced willingness to work in teams (23), which lowered the productivity (24).
In their study around air ventilation, Preziosi et al.  found exposure to HVAC systems to be strongly linked to sick absences from work.
So, there are some risk to experimenting with the air conditioning as a medium to disperse scent.
Which scent gives which effect?
As mentioned before different scents give different effects. Even the same scent can give different effects in individuals depending on the Proustian memory effect.
In this chapter I will give an overview of which scent will hypothetical result in a responding effect, leaving the Proustian memory effect out of the equation. The inspiration for this chapter comes from the leading researchers in scent and behaviour; Rouby, Herz, Avery, Chen and Ackerl.
Rouby et al (2002) link scent to memory. Scent is strongly connected to memory. This is especially true with emotional charged memories.
Herz (2009) talks about how scent can affect your mood. Different scents can be used to create different mind-sets.
Avery et al (2009) studied the effects of environmental odours in creating negative mind-sets and stress levels.
Chen et al. (2000) studied the effect of scent on happiness while Ackerl et al, studied the effect of scent on fear (2002).
Below are the 20 most used scents in the work offices to improve performance. Not all of them have been researched extensively. The reason why, you can read in critical notes and problems of olfactory research.
Scent Effect Source
(Citrus) (Lemon (linalool), grapefruit)
Fresh cut grass
Scents to Relieve Anger: Chamomile, Jasmine, Patchouli, Rose and Ylang-ylang.
Scents to Relieve Anxiety: Bergamot, Cedarwood, Cypress, Frankincense, Hyssop, Lavender, Marjoram, Myrrh, Neroli, Orange, Peach, Rose, Rose Geranium and Violet Leaf.
Scents to Increase Confidence: Frankincense, Jasmine, Patchouli and Sandalwood.
Scents to Ease Depression: Bergamot, Clary Sage, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Neroli, Orange, Petitgrain, Rose Geranium, Sandalwood, Tangerine and Ylang-ylang.
Scents to Improve Memory: Bay Laurel, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon and Rosemary.
Scents to Ease Sorrow: Clary Sage, Cypress, Fir, Marjoram, Rosemary and Sage.
Scents Used as Aphrodisiacs: Jasmine, Rose, Sandalwood, Vanilla and Ylang-ylang.
Scents to Invigorate and Overcome Fatigue: Angelica, Benzoin, Camphor, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove Basil, Cypress, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Lemon, Peppermint, Pine, Sage and Spiced Apple.
Scents to Deal with Stress, Nervous Tension and Insomnia: Bergamot, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Cloves, Frankincense, Lavender, Lemon, Marjoram, Myrrh, Neroli, Nutmeg, Orange, Petitgrain, Rose, Sandalwood, Sweet Melissa, Valerian, Vanilla, Violet, and Ylang-ylang.
Scents to Calm Irritability: Chamomile, Neroli, Rose, and Rose Geranium.
When Krusemark induced anxiety in their test subjects through scent and the memory that was connected to the scent. They not only found out that neutral scents got misinterpreted with ‘negative' scents but also that ‘negative' scents to longer to detect than ‘positive' scents.
Could modifying the olfaction perception change the behaviour of a person?
Odour is the first frontier in many ways. It tells us whether it is safe, whether there is danger ahead. If we are surrounded my friend or foe. The odour in our immediate surroundings can influence our behaviour on an instinctual and unconscious level. Most of the time we react involuntarily on odour. When we control the scents around us, we control the psychological state of mind that they bring with them. Whether that is a positive or a negative state of mind.
Reynolds et al discovered that emotions such as fear and embarrassment encourage ‘avoidance' of certain behaviours. This ‘avoidance' mechanism is trigger almost automatically in decision making contexts when we encounter a smell that triggers a memory in which we were afraid or embarrassed. These scents may ‘push' us in certain behaviours through influencing our decision-making process.
Why are scents that trigger memories that relate to anxiety and fear the most potent ones? Elizabeth Krusemark and her colleagues might have an answer. They studied the connections between the olfactory organ and the amygdala (our centre for emotions). The study showed that the emotion anxiety strengthened the connections between olfactory and emotion systems. Participants were exposed to scents that triggered a pleasant memory and scents that triggered a memory filled with anxiety. With the scents that were connected to memories in which the participants were afraid, the fMRI shows a more active connection. Coincidently this study also showed that it took the participants longer to consciously detect to ‘unpleasant' scent. On average it took the participants 14 seconds longer to detect the unpleasant scent than the pleasant scent.
Kensinger studied the link between neutral odors and anxiety. The participants in the study that had a natural stronger respond to anxiety reacted stronger to changes in odor. The study also showed that these participants also identified neutral odors as unpleasant odors more frequently after being exposed to pleasant odors. The conclusion of the study revealed that the people that were naturally inclined to react stronger to anxiety, also felt more anxiety when exposed to, what they described as, unpleasant odors.
Barker (1968) started something that we now call ecological psychology. He was the first to use the term “synomorphy”. With this term he wanted to highlight the importance of the connection between human behaviour and his/her physical environment. Barker was the first to state that the physical determines of your workplace influences how you feel at work and how productive you are in the office.
Whether it's too hot, to cold, to windy, too sunny, or to dark, it all has an impact on how you perform at the office. Workplace odour has a similar impact.
The same limitations that your physical workplace has, also form opportunities says Kupritz. When designing workplace offices, meeting areas, places where colleagues can come to meet, take a break, or collaborate, keep your senses in mind. Whether it's visual, auditory, tactile or olfactory signals they all enhance our communication and create a more dynamic interaction which results in better (brainstorming, teamwork, …). (Kupritz & Cowell, 2011; Kupritz & Hillsman, 2008).
I mentioned the hand washing and citrus scent example, and the biscuit and all-purpose cleaner above. Citrus and all-cleaner are not the only scents that has been researched. Through research, many more scents have been found that affect our behaviour. Most of them alter our behaviour on an unconscious level. . .
Why would it work?
Lan et al, discovered that the olfactory cues are limited by wavelengths or air pressure like visual and auditory cues. (24) Olfaction has been linked to memory by scientist such as Mendell et al, Preziosi et al and Smeets and al. 25–27.
Scent is the first frontier of our defence system. Scents are the first thing that gets picked up by our senses states Lan et al. We encounter millions of different scents, but most of it gets filtered out as irrelevant; we will never consciously detect most scents says Holland et al. 28.
(Lan et al) smell is intimate since it can trigger personal memories and their connected emotions. When you control what we smell, you can potentially control what we remember. When you control what we remember you control how we feel, and that means that you can hypothetically control and predict how we will behave on a conscious or even subconscious level.
An odour that we involuntary label as ‘negative' doesn't have to mean that we connect it with a ‘negative' memory. A common inbred signal from the olfactory system labels some odours as ‘negative' when the scent is subconsciously linked to microbial threats says Lan et al and Holland et al. 22, 23, 28
Gottfried (2010) also states that smell is an intimate sensory organ since it's closely linked to our emotions. Our olfactory organ is, unlike other sensory organs, closely linked with the amygdala (our key emotion area), the hippocampus and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC).
When we try to alter the smells around us, and change the olfactory perception while doing so, we can directly influence the amygdala. That's why the olfactory perception is dominated by emotions. Strong positive scent – memory associations can surge immediately when confronted with the scent. Yeshurun and Sobel (2010) also state that we are weak at identifying object smells. (Yeshurun and Sobel, 2010)
How effective would it be?
How does detecting smell biologically works and how does the HVAC system contribute?
Just like any other sense, so will our sense of smell effect our performance at work. Particularly the presence of indoor air pollutants effects our performance. Not only do we need a good HVAC system to remove these impurities from the air. The dirt, dust and other odours on furniture, office equipment, floor and wall have an odour that distracts us from delivering a high performance. Even the cleaning supplies might impact our performance at the office. (Schneider, 1999).
Von Kempski (2002) found that there can be up to 400 different kind of olfactory contaminants in the workplace. Kupritz and Bellingar (2006/2007) says that HVAC system should make sure that food odours can't impregnate other areas of the work floor, so that employees wouldn't be distracted by the odours when working.
General and subjective odours
Employees don't always experience odours in the same way. As mentioned before, Scent has a personal dimension since it's so closely linked to memories, which are personal by nature. (Hall, 1966)
Not only individuals can experience scents differently from each other. Scents also have a cultural component. (Knapp & Hall, 2007).
Sick building syndrome
The sick building syndrome as put by Wargocki et al (2001): When HVAC systems malfunction specifically poor functioning airflow and air quality conditions, then the odour will be negatively affected by environmental smells (dust, dirt, cleaning products…). This will intensify if the temperature rises and the body odour at work rises. Wargocki et al, also link these effects with the deteriorating health of the employee. (Wargocki, Wyon, Sundell, Clausen, & Fanger, 2001).
Joshi summarizes: “Sick Building Syndrome refers to health problems caused by a tightly designed building structure and HVAC system that limit air distribution so that air pollutants are not adequately diluted or removed from the building.”
I talked about scent being used in commercial settings to increase consumer spending more. In these settings HVAC installations are also used to optimal spread the scent through the shop. (Spangenberg, Crowley, & Henderson, 1996). Think about coffee shops, popcorn at the movie theatres, and most infamous the bakeries.
HVAC systems can also be used to deliberately diffuse scent with the purpose of reducing stress (Raudenbush, Koon, Meyer, & Flower, 2002) or to increase cognitive performance (Zoladz, Raudenbush, & Lilley, 2004)
Shimizu, the Japanese construction and design company that was mentioned in the introduction. Has developed a computerized technique for diffusing aromas through air conditioning shafts. This would increase performance and reducing stress among employee says Jandt (2006).
Harel et al (2003) have research a wearable odour system (Whiffler, scented wristband) and the effect on our mood. Or even have odour therapy (Cater, 1994) through head mounted gear, designed for virtual reality. Harel et al (2003) also mention that once the scent of the wristband is released that it could be further spread by HVAC systems.
Cater (1994) points out that few decisions in organisations are as visible, expensive and have long term impact as decisions made surrounding our physical workplace.
In 1999, O'Mara followed up on Cater's research and said that virtual reality will change how the workplace is designed and managed in the future. The design of the workplace will become a differentiating factor from competitors. (p. 299).
Amygdala & olfaction
When Krusemark et al, induced anxiety in the participants they noticed that ‘unpleasant' odours to longer to detect than ‘pleasant' odours. The more anxiety the participants felt the longer it took to detect the ‘unpleasant' odour. According to Krusemark et al, this underlines the fundamental role that emotion, and anxiety, plays in olfactory processes.
At the same time the OFC showed a heightened response to neutral odours after the participants were exposed to both ‘pleasant' and ‘unpleasant' odours. The researchers (Krusemark et al.) reasoned that this increased interaction between emotion and olfaction perception came from enlarged feed forward and feedback connections. Yeshurun and Sobel (2010) complete this with saying that this feed forward, and feedback connections are constantly rewiring the neural circuit in our brain creating new respond mechanisms when it comes to emotion and olfaction. (Yeshurun and Sobel, 2010).
As discussed in the introduction, we form a perception of reality through sensory processing. The information that enters us through our senses create possibilities for us to interact with our external environment. Krusemark et al, say that sensory processing isn't just dependable on the quality and intensity of the sensory input but also on the affective meaning of the input.
A familiar sound, a familiar sight, or even a familiar scent, can trigger our memories and influences our perception of reality.
The amygdala causes a strong connection between emotion and scent. (Gottfried and Zald, 2005). Li et al (2010) say that the amygdala is a key component in the olfactory system, it ties scent with emotion and memory. That is why odour can affectively influence our everyday life.
The amygdala plays an important role in integrating these 3 (emotion, scent and memory) states Small et al (2013). They say that you can ‘reprogram' the amygdala (Small et al., 2013). They did the study with anxiety. They exposed the participants with food phobias to smells of food they detest. By helping the participants get emotional control over the memory that brought them anxiety. The anxiety after being exposed to the smell of the food that they detest went down. The relation between emotion, scent and memory is called olfactory sensory processing.
The OFC is responsible when we misidentify neutral odours as ‘unpleasant' odour, and thus changing our perception of our external environment. It's potentially unique to the olfactory system that emotion is directly connected to sensory input says (Tamietto and de Gelder, 2010).
A critical note: changing odours to influence the employee's mental state and their corresponding behaviour (either consciously or unconsciously).
Being continuously exposed to odours can lead to a myriad of implication resulting into failure to reach your goal. Among them 3 of the most common ones:
• Odour fatigue; being exposed to odours during a long period, doesn't automatically lead to parallel long-term behaviour or mental state changes. Researchers have yet to discover when odour fatigue sets in. Researchers are still looking for answers to the question. At what point does the behavioural or mental state changes fade while being exposed to the same scent?
• Adaptation of mental state and behaviours different from your intent or expectation. Since scent is closely linked to memories, which are personal by nature. This means that employees can react different to what was envisioned by the conductor of the scent diffusion project. There ‘general' smell which make it easier to predict which behaviours or mental states they will encourage by employees exposed to the scent. But more ‘complex' scent, for example the scent of the ocean. Will trigger a different respond although the scent stays the same ‘ocean scent'. Personal memories will lead to individual changes in terms of behaviour and mental state.
• Learning; researchers such as Krusemark wonder what the effect is of long-term exposure to scent. Does the behaviour change over the course of the scent exposure? Do we exhibit the same behaviour at the beginning of the scent exposure as after a certain amount of time? These questions are closely linked to odour fatigue, but another part of learning is the effect of unconscious verses conscious processing of scent. Will the mental state be equal influenced when participants are aware of the scent as if they were unaware of the scent?
These are just some of the question that researchers are still trying to answer
The researchers Krusemark et al, pose another topic that can influence the outcome of scent diffusion in respect to behavioural and mental state changes: Interference
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