Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Science 7: Smells like Christmas

In the run up to Christmas, Communicate Science offers you 20 Christmas Science Facts. We'll post one every day until the 25th December.

Smells like Christmas
It's natural that we associated certain smells with Christmas.

According to research conducted last year in Germany, people associated orange, cinnamon and cloves with Christmas. The same group of people also said that they associate smells like roses with summertime.
The research found that, of all the odours tested, cinnamon was the one most closely associated with Christmas.Nothing surprising there!

Interestingly, the study also found that some odours become more familiar and pleasant during certain times of the year.

When tested in winter and summer, subjects showed significantly higher familiarity and pleasantness ratings when they smelled cinnamon during the Christmas season rather than during summer.

In order to set the mood, during each season the scientists wore different outfits; as the paper notes:
"In order to establish a Christmas-associated atmosphere, the odours were presented by the experimenter wearing a "Santa Claus" hat in the booth decorated with Christmas ornaments during the Christmas season. To create a summertime-related atmosphere, the odours were presented by the experimenters wearing season-related attire, i.e. T-shirts with short arms and even pants with short legs."


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