Yummm, Cinnamon-Bums – Courtship Success Boosted With Pleasant Odors, Study
Christopher Philip

In a simple experiment by French researcher Nicolas Guéguen, Université de Bretagne-Sud, it was found that where you solicit for a date such as near a pastry or coffee shop emitting pleasant or sweet odors, significantly affects the outcome.

The experiment had 5 men approach women in various areas of the shopping mall to solicit for their phone number. As per the protocol, they were told to approach women near areas with pleasant ambient odors including bakeries, pastry shops, coffee-roasting shops or not, including clothing stores, music stores, and banks. The male study confederates were blind to the purpose of the study, meaning they did not understand they were being measured for their success based on the location of their solicitation.

The men were told to walk slowly and approach the first women between the ages of 18-25. He was told to say “Hello. My name’s Antoine. I just want to say that I think you’re really pretty. I have to go to work this afternoon, and I was wondering if you would give me your phone number. I’ll phone you later and we can have a drink together someplace.” At this point, he was told to gaze at the woman and smile for 10 seconds.

Over the course of the experiment, the men approached a total of 400 women. When women were solicited near the pleasant ambient orders, women gave their number 23% of the time (46/200) whereas they only gave their number 13.5% (27/200) when no pleasant odor was present.

The results are consistent with prior research on odor. When people smell pleasant odors, they are more likely to comply to a request. Positive odors leading to compliance has been shown in various studies including giving spare change requested by a passersby, working harder at a volunteer task, and request for help and to take part in a telephone survey.

“Pleasant ambient odors could have activated a positive mood which, in turn, led the participants to respond more favorably to the confederate,” says Guéguen.

As Guéguen says, pleasant odors seem to activate an altruistic prime in people. When they smell something nice, they are motivated to act nicely and comply with requests.

The Implications

The implications of this study are obvious. To motivate people to do favours, activate their altruism prime through odor. For example, making a particularly delicious meal can be effective in soliciting for help on an even larger task. We use this technique routinely in business where deals are made over the course of food.

Studies have shown that perfume worn by women also activates chivalry in men. In one study women who wore perfume and dropped papers “unknowingly” had them returned to her more often when she was wearing perfume then when she didn’t.

We may use pleasant odors such as persistently brewed fresh coffee in the workplace and fresh pastries to stimulate our workers to stay longer and work harder on their jobs.

As we saw here, when men approached near pleasant odors, they were twice as effective at soliciting for numbers than when they when no pleasant odors existed.

The possibilities really are endless, and as we have seen here, effective.


Guéguen, Nicolas. The Sweet Smell of Courtship: Effects of Pleasant Ambient Fragrance on Women’s Receptivity to a Man’s Courtship Request. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 2012. 32: 123-125.