Summary: According to researchers, the ambient scent of foods can help to reduce cravings and satisfy the appetite.
Just a whiff of fried food may entice you to order a high-calorie meal. But breathe it in for longer than two minutes, and you’re more likely to be content with fruit.
A new study published in the Journal of Marketing Research finds ambient food scent can directly satisfy the belly. That’s because the brain doesn’t necessarily differentiate the source of sensory pleasure.
“Ambient scent can be a powerful tool to resist cravings for indulgent foods,” said lead author Dipayan Biswas, PhD, marketing professor at the University of South Florida College of Business. “In fact, subtle sensory stimuli like scents can be more effective in influencing children’s and adults’ food choices than restrictive policies.”
Biswas discovered a direct connection between the length of exposure time and whether or not one will indulge. He conducted a series of tests using an inconspicuous nebulizer, that separately gave off the scent of healthy and unhealthy food items. (cookies vs. strawberries, pizza vs. apples)
He found participants exposed to the smell of cookies for less than 30 seconds were more likely to want a cookie. But those exposed for longer than two minutes, didn’t find that cookie desirable, and picked strawberries instead. He had the same results when the scent of pizza and apples were tested.
Since non-indulgent foods don’t give off much of an ambient scent, they’re typically not connected with reward, therefore have little influence on what we order.
Biswas’s previous research has shown light and the volume of music impacts food choice. However, this the first study to prove one sense can compensate another.
Source: Tina Meketa – USF
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “The Smell of Healthy Choices: Cross-Modal Sensory Compensation Effects of Ambient Scent on Food Purchases” by Dipayan Biswas, and Courtney Szocs in Journal of Marketing Research. Published January 4 2019.
The Smell of Healthy Choices: Cross-Modal Sensory Compensation Effects of Ambient Scent on Food Purchases
Managers are using ambient scent as an important strategic element in various service settings, with food-related scents being especially common. This research examines the effects of food-related ambient scents on children’s and adults’ food purchases/choices. The results of a series of experiments, including field studies at a supermarket and at a middle school cafeteria, show that extended exposure (of more than two minutes) to an indulgent food–related ambient scent (e.g., cookie scent) leads to lower purchases of unhealthy foods compared with no ambient scent or a nonindulgent food–related ambient scent (e.g., strawberry scent). The effects seem to be driven by cross-modal sensory compensation, whereby prolonged exposure to an indulgent/rewarding food scent induces pleasure in the reward circuitry, which in turn diminishes the desire for actual consumption of indulgent foods. Notably, the effects reverse with brief (<30 seconds) exposure to the scent. Whereas prior research has examined cross-modal effects, this research adopts the novel approach of examining cross-modal sensory compensation effects, whereby stimuli in one sensory modality (olfactory) can compensate/satisfy the desire related to another sensory modality (gustatory).