If you love the smell of coffee, chances are you might be performing better than your peers in analytical tasks, new research from the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows.
Led by the Stevens School of Business along with researchers at Temple University and Baruch College, the team carried out two studies to investigate whether the scent of coffee alone (which has no caffeine) could be strong enough to boost cognitive performance.
In the first study, the researchers looked at performance Graduate Management Aptitude Test, or GMAT, a computer adaptive test required by many business schools.
They gave a 10-question GMAT algebra test to around 100 undergraduate business students in a computer lab setting, and divided the participants into two groups.
One group took the test in the presence of an ambient coffee-like scent, while a control group took the same test in an unscented room.
The researchers found that the group in the coffee-smelling room scored significantly higher on the test.
As a further step, the team designed a follow-up survey which they gave to more than 200 new participants, quizzing them on their beliefs about various scents and their perceived effects on human performance.
Results showed that participants reported believing they would feel more alert and energetic when smelling a coffee scent, compared to a flower scent or no scent; and that exposure to the coffee scent would increase their performance on mental tasks.
The findings suggest that due to participants’ expectations on enhanced performance, smelling a coffee-like scent has an effect similar to drinking coffee, indicating a placebo effect of coffee scent.
Basically if you tell yourself the scent of coffee is going to help you perform better, you’re going to perform better.
Previous studies have also shown coffee to have a myriad of physical health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia.
So the next time you have a big presentation coming up, try some olfactory therapy with a humble cup of coffee.