Is there a subconscious connection between odors and behavioral reactions?
In 1983, a survey was conducted at the University of Warich to answer this question. The experiment involved two stages, and the participants did not know what the subject of the study was. In the first part, they were deliberately placed in a stressful situation – they had to do a job requiring both manual working skills and logical thinking for a certain period of time. A list of instructions on the task assigned to the odor, unknown to the individuals, was attached to the information board which had direct access. The degree of dilution was such that they could not consciously perceive the smell. Then they asked if they wanted to take part in a second experiment at the same university.
The second stage, carried out after three days, showed in a convincing way that it is possible to create a significant degree of stress in the same individuals by acting with low concentrations of the same odor. They have already developed a conditional reflex linking the specific smell to the stress situation. When they subsequently caused them to smell a trimethylundecyclic aldehyde and to tell if their smell was familiar to them, few responded affirmatively.
There is a claim that aromatherapy is not capable of having a significant effect because the human nose has the ability to quickly become accustomed to odors. After a few minutes, we are no longer able to feel the smell of essential oils and therefore cannot be effective. This is absolutely untrue, as is also proved by the experiment in Warrick. The smells influence us even when we do not consciously perceive them. Often people consider the concept of “therapeutic flavoring substances” to be unacceptable and it is not surprising, because our minds often do not perceive smells, even though we have smelled, in most cases we are unable to understand that somehow is affected.
In another study, individuals were given two types of test paint without knowing that the paint differed only by smell. According to the participants, the aromatized paint was preferable due to its better coating and smooth surface properties compared to the non-aromatized paint. One of the famous perfumery companies conducted an experiment in which people were invited to compare two rooms identical in every respect, except that one of them was spreading a mild, pleasant scent. Test participants described the fragrant room as brighter, cleaner and fresher, but none of them noted the existence of a pleasant smell.
In all three experiments, smells are at levels perceived by the human nose, but our conscious brain often does not detect the odor until it becomes very strong. When the researchers later learned about the smell, they were able to “perceive” and recognize it. Perhaps someone would argue that tests of this kind are in some ways dishonest and make people look ridiculous, but in practice the participants really are but they did not interpret it in relation to the sense of smell, but during the test, in Warick, they responded to the smell, but at the subconscious level.