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  • Writer's pictureJiah Hwang

The 5 Senses Series: The Power of Scent

By: Jiah Hwang

Author’s Note

I’ve always had an extremely intuitive and sensitive nose. It is able to pick up on the smallest hints of the saltinesses of sweat in a cramped classroom full of testosterone and hormones or notice a change in someone’s shampoo. What I’ve noticed with this ability is that when I meet people that smell consistently nice, it reminds me of cleanliness and gives me the image that they are a person that is very put together — someone I would want to be around more, compared to those that have little to no scent, that doesn’t leave that much of an impression. With this in mind, I decided to research if smelling good actually has a correlation with making more human relationships than when you smell bad/neutral. Besides, even if you believe that scent or light changes in your appearance or accessories aren’t notable to others, even subconsciously, they could make a world of difference — opening up a myriad of potential connections and a myriad of friendships or relationships coming your way.

Reviewed Research Article: “The Sense of Smell and its Effect on Attraction” (


In this study, cologne/perfume will be sprayed in the rooms where 13 men and 14 women from Lindenwood University of an 18-22 age range will be to rate the photographs of five actors and actresses on separate scales. There will also be a control group where there is no cologne/perfume sprayed in the room, with the purpose of determining if wearing cologne/perfume increases the level of attraction.

Scale for judging:

1 — not attractive

5 — very attractive

The 5 actors that were judged were:

  • Keanu Reaves

  • Common

  • Willem Dafoe

  • Danny Devito

  • John C. Reilly

The 5 actresses that were judged were:

  • Keira Knightley

  • Sandra Bernhard

  • Joan Cusack

  • Emma Stone

  • Beyonce Knowles

The perfume that was sprayed for the group of men was “Very Sexy" by Victoria‘s Secret, and the cologne “Very Sexy for Men” by Victoria‘s Secret was used for every other female participant before they rated the actors. This choice was based on the scents’ similarities in ingredients.


The differences in the ratings between the actors and actresses in the scented and unscented rooms were determined with the ANOVA test, also known as the “analysis for variance” test. This ANOVA revealed significant main effects of sex, F(1,23) = 50.563, with a p-value less than 0.05, and scent F(1,23) = 14.735, with a p-value less than 0.05. The men were influenced more by the presence of scent than the women, as they had a mean rating of 17.61, while the women had a mean rating of 13.64.


  1. How were the actors and actresses that were judged decided upon?

Since there were only 5 actors and actresses that were judged by the participants, in order to conduct a fair and accurate experiment, it needed a suitable medium for attractiveness and unattractiveness, along with a mix of or no mix of ethnicities in order to have no bias within the participants. The research article never explicitly states how they chose the actors and on what standards, even in the “Procedure” section. Instead, the “Procedure” section specifies how the participants signed consent forms and more, which doesn’t seem very relevant to the explanation of the progress and proving the accuracy of the test.

  1. Why the “Victoria’s Secret” perfume?

Although they stated that the reason for choosing the perfume for both men and women was because of their similarity in scented ingredients, there are plenty of other perfume sets for men and women that share the same ingredients — why those specifically? Did they consider how some scents are generally appealing or nauseating for the participants and take that into account while choosing the scent, or was the scent chosen before?


Despite some lack of clarity regarding the standard of testing and considering certain factors in the test for accuracy, the result we can take away from this experiment is that your scent alone has the ability to attract or push away people. Even if you have a day where you look like you need a haircut, you’re breaking out, or your clothes look uncoordinated, simply smelling good will increase the positivity in a person’s perception of your appearance. This was proven by the positive scores given to the photos with wide ranges of what is considered “conventionally attractive,” such as Keanu Reeves, to some more famous in roles for “comedic relief” or “relatability,” such as Danny Devito, with the presence of a good scent. So, the next time you find yourself needing to make a good first impression or just want to be more likable in your daily life, consider suggesting putting a cologne or perfume at the top of your shopping list.

Statistics Key

ANOVA: A statistical test used to compare the means/averages of certain groups of data.

P-value: The P-value is the probability of getting the observed sample result (or one even more dramatic) if the null hypothesis is true. The lower the p-value, the greater the statistical significance.


Kenton, Will. “Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) Explanation, Formula, and Applications.” Investopedia, Investopedia, Accessed 22 May 2023.

“The Sense of Smell and its Effect on Attraction.” Undergraduate Psychology Research Methods Journal, vol. 1, no. 10, 2009, pp. 1-22. Lindenwood University, Accessed 22 May 2023.


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