Examining the Effects of Olfactory Cues on Consumption

Research supports attractive food cues, such as olfactory cues, in our environment have a strong impact on eating behavior (Yeomans, 2006); however, research on olfactory cues has been mixed. Research demonstrates that brief olfactory exposures may increase responding for food; however, it also demonstrates that repeated exposures may decrease responding for food. It may be that olfactory cues can both increase and decrease responding for food, and habitation may be able to explain both phenomena as sensitization and habituation. However, most studies have focused on responding for food and measuring salivation, with consumption as a secondary measure. Larsen, Hermans, and Engels (2012) were the first to examine olfactory exposure lengths on food consumption, but results did not yield significant effects. The current study also examined the effects of olfactory exposure lengths on food consumption. A total of eight university students were exposed to three durations of a pizza smell (0 min, 10 min, and 15 min) and were then presented with pizza to consume. Additionally, each participant was exposed to a cookie smell to determine whether stimulus specificity would be observed. Results indicate that duration of olfactory cue exposure had no effect on food consumption or response rate as no differentiation was observed between conditions. Furthermore, stimulus specificity could not be determined due to lack of differentiation between conditions. Limitations of this study may have contributed to the results. Future research is warranted to address these limitations and further investigate the effects of environmental stimuli on food consumption.