If you love the fragrance of coffee, there are high chances of better performance in analytical tasks, a new study has found.
According to the researchers, smelling a coffee-like scent — which has no caffeine in it — has an effect similar to that of drinking coffee, suggesting a placebo effect of coffee scent.
The findings also suggested that the scent of coffee alone may help people perform better on the analytical portion of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT) — a computer adaptive test required by many business schools.
“It’s not just that the coffee-like scent helped people perform better on analytical tasks, which was already interesting,” said co-author Adriana Madzharov from the Stevens Institute of Technology in the US.
“But they also thought they would do better, and we demonstrated that this expectation was at least partly responsible for their improved performance,” Madzharov added.
For the study, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, the research team administered a 10-question GMAT algebra test in a computer lab to about 100 undergraduate business students.
The participants were divided 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 — but in an unscented room.
The researchers found that the group in the coffee-smelling room scored significantly higher on the test.
The team also designed a follow-up survey — conducted among more than 200 new participants — quizzing them on beliefs about various scents and their perceived effects on human performance.
The participants believed they would feel more alert and energetic in the presence of a coffee scent, versus a flower scent or no scent; and that exposure to coffee scent would increase their performance on mental tasks.
The results suggest that expectations about performance can be explained by beliefs that coffee scent alone makes people more alert and energetic.
Previous studies have also suggested that coffee may lessen the risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia.