Environmental psychology: Can stores trick us into buying more crap with scents like cookie, orange?

At Pacific Standard, Joel Smith writes about studies in which researchers set up camp at retail stores to see which scents had what kinds of subliminal behavioral effects on the buying habits of shoppers. "One was a simple orange scent; the other was a more complex blend of orange, basil and green tea," Smith writes. "In 18 days of testing, they found that those who made purchases at the store while it smelled simply of orange spent about 20 percent more. And not only 20 percent more than in unscented conditions, but 20 percent more than in the presence of the more complex scent."


  1. Not only do you spend more at that store, prices are probably higher, because they have to spend money on orange-like-scent-spraying equipment.

    Shop at your local co-op. It they start pulling the same crap, join the co-op and go to the meetings and tell ’em to stop.

    Edited to add: I wonder if streetwalkers read Salon…

  2. Uh-oh. I think I’ll stop daubing orange oil (and, just to be on the safe side, vanilla extract)  behind my ears. Didn’t know there could be such a big drawback to smelling yummy.

  3. I read/scanned the article.  I would respect the conclusions more if I saw the words “double blind” or even “blind.”

  4. I always wonder in marketing and advertising, how much these tricks work. And much of it is just marketers and advertisers trying to justify their jobs. Probably a bit of both.

  5. Saying stores are “tricking” us into buying crap is a bit strong, but then again, I wore cologne while courting my wife, and I’m sure at this point she’d agree with the characterization.  

  6. This seems like one of those crap studies where they failed to note that sample group one was shopping the week before Christmas or something like that.

  7. And it’s this kind of crap ad hominem ‘science’ that’s going to usher in the Carbon Caliphate Church:Market:State control over every human beings’ energy (therefore food) consumption.

  8. Xeni,
    Thanks for the story about selling, instead of a story used to sell, you know? you keep me coming back to BB . . .

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