Do Clean Smells Cause Clean Behavior?

Kim Conte

clean towelsOne of my favorite smells is clean laundry right after it comes out of the dryer. Mmmmmmm...

As it turns out, my favorite smell might just inspire me to act more fair, charitable and generous than I would normally toward others. That's according to new research, which shows that clean smells promote moral behavior. Not sure if I buy it, but if it is true, I'm going to start wearing strong, "clean-smelling" perfume so that everyone around me acts ethically!

In two experiments, participants in a room spritzed with a clean smell—in this case, citrus-scented Windex—acted more "fairly" and "charitably" than compared to participants in a plain-smelling room. Researchers believe this is because people associate physical cleanliness with moral cleanliness.

Instead of using intrusive security measures like surveillance, workplaces, retail stores and other organizations could encourage people to follow the rules and act ethically simply by manipulating the odors of the environment. How could we use this to our advantage at home?

Do you think there's a connection between clean smells and "clean" behavior? What's your favorite clean smell?


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