Emotional State, Physical Well-Being, and Performance in the Presence of Feigned Ambient Odor1


  • 1

    This research was supported by National Institutes of Health Training Grant 5 T32 NS07176–09.

Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Susan C. Knasko, Monell Chemical Senses Center, 3500 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104–3308.


Measures of emotional state, physical well-being, performance, and room odor were obtained from subjects given the suggestion of a pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral ambient odor (n= 30 per condition). The hedonic quality of the feigned odor altered self-reports of pleasure, but not dominance or arousal. Subjects given the pleasant suggestion reported a more positive mood. The number of reported physical health symptoms differed as a function of the hedonic quality of the feigned odor. The category corresponding to the fewest number of physical symptoms was predominated by subjects in the pleasant condition, while subjects in the unpleasant condition predominated the category with the greatest number of symptoms. Subjects predicted higher task performance in the unpleasant condition, but no differences were found among conditions in actual performance. Room odor ratings differed in directions consistent with the hedonic quality of the feigned odor. The effects of olfactory suggestion may be relevant to the psychosomatic component of sick building syndrome and to the perception and marketing of fragrance.