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Clean Scents Make People More Virtuous, Study Shows

Posted: November 3, 2009

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The new findings might even help cities with crime or vandalism, she says. “Instead of hiring more cops to patrol a beat, you could ostensibly try tidying up the environment,” Liljenquist says. “It could be a very cost-effective and non-manipulative way to influence people for good.”

Carol Terry, a 53-year-old librarian from Spokane, Washington, says she’s definitely observed the effect of a clean environment on patrons at the libraries where she’s worked. “If there’s a sitting area at the library that’s clean, it stays clean,” she says. “And if there’s a corner somewhere that’s messy, it quickly gets messier and messier. It may be more of a psychological thing as opposed to a smell thing, but the smell thing may come into it. I know in a clean restroom, I clean up after myself more, wiping away drops from around the sink with my paper towel after washing my hands.”

How do clean smells affect her personally? “Just talking about it makes me want to pull out my orange-scented wipes and use them,” she says.

Not surprisingly, Liljenquist thinks parents might be particularly interested in her findings. “It’s not necessarily a panacea for childhood rebellion, but I do think in general, if you ask your kids to clean their room, they might clean up their act, too,” she says. “My mom was quite a neat freak growing up. I think she feels vindicated by this research.”

By Diane Mapes, MSNBC.com, October 30, 2009