Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

Psychology, Contact: Sensing a Difference: Essential Oils' Effect on Performance

Publication Date



Sciences and Mathematics, College of


Psychological Science, Department of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Michael Oliver

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


Each of the five senses play a vital role in our everyday lives, many of which can influence behaviors such as eating, driving, or even academic performance. While not widely researched, there is the potential that smell may affect performance given its connection to relaxation and memory. For example, aromas such as lavender have been shown to increase performance (Sokomoto et. al., 2005), whereas unpleasant aromas such as a “rotten egg” smell, may lead to distractions thereby decreasing performance (Danuser et. al., 2003). In addition, aromas paired with words, such as pleasant or pervasive, may affect performance depending on one’s perception of whether the word-aroma combination is positive or negative. Priming with expectancy effects has been shown to significantly impact performance (Janz, 1982). As such, a pleasant word paired with a pleasant smell may lead to better performance. Although these relationships exist, what is less understood is whether the word or aroma, most impacts performance. To investigate this, the present study utilized 40 participants selected from Belmont’s introductory Psychology courses. Participants completed two math assessments while either being presented by a smell, strawberry or banana, explicitly labeled as either “calm” or “energy”, or no smell. It is hypothesized that the smell conditions will result in better performance compared to controls. It is also hypothesized the groups primed with the word “calm” will complete the assessments quicker, and more accurately, compared to the groups primed with “energy” and the control group.

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