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Clean Scents Unconsciously Promote Ethical Behavior

By: Donna Fontenot to psychology

In research conducted by Katie Liljenquist of Brigham Young University, Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto, and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University, test clearly showed that people exposed to rooms with fresh, clean smells such as those freshly spritzed with Windex, were more fair and generous than people in normal-smelling rooms. Those who were in the clean-smelling rooms didn’t consciously remember the smell, but they proved to be more willing to share and donate than the groups in rooms that had not been spritzed.

Stores, malls, and other workplaces could use this technique to encourage ethical behavior that security systems and surveillance fail to engender.

“Basically, our study shows that morality and cleanliness can go hand-in-hand,” said Galinsky. “Researchers have known for years that scents play an active role in reviving positive or negative experiences. Now, our research can offer more insight into the links between people’s charitable actions and their surroundings.”

You can read more about how the test was conducted at the BYU press release, and the findings will be published soon in Psychological Science.

I plan to try my own experiment on the youngsters in my house, to see if the fresh scents of Febreeze has any effect on the kids’ behavior and cooperation with one another. This could be a breakthrough not only for businesses looking to influence employee and shopper behavior, but for parents as well.

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