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Clean Scents Make People More Virtuous, Study Shows
Posted: November 3, 2009
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Promoting virtue instead of vice
“As an ethics researcher, I read stuff all the time about saints turning into sinners, missteps people make in an ethical domain,” says Liljenquist, assistant professor of organizational leadership and strategy at BYU’s Marriott School of Management. “But there’s little research that shows what can promote virtue instead of vice. This is refreshing.”
Liljenquist is quick to point out that the specific type of cleaning product is less important than the nice smell it produces, and that S.C. Johnson, the company that makes Windex, had nothing to do with the study. “There was a Walgreen’s near the campus and we bought what was handy on the shelf that was citrus-scented," she said. "It just happened to be Windex.”
Dr. Alan Hirsch, founder and neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, says he’s not at all surprised by the findings linking clean smells to good behavior. “It goes along with literature in the past that suggests pleasant odors tend to induce positive moods,” he says. “When you’re in a positive mood, you tend to be more generous.”
The way participants feel about an odor, though, also makes a difference, he says. “If people like the smell, it has a positive effect on them and whatever they’re doing,” he says. “If they dislike the odor, it tends not to have that positive effect.”