Friday, October 23, 2009

Windex Makes People Nicer: Scientific Proof from Bringham Young University

Many people believe in aroma therapy, and that fragrance affects mood. One experiment that proved that involved Windex.

Windex, the famous blue Window cleaner, is a simple cleaner with a little blue coloring and some fragrance. It is made by former employer, SC Johnson. The story was that marketers wanted it to smell like ammonia so that people could tell it was working.

Recently researchers studied the effect of Windex and its odor --actually the limonene-scented citrus version-- on the behavior of people. Limonene is the famous natural solvent extracted from citrus fruit peels. It has a nice citrus scent. The Windex probably also smelled like ammonia, and an alcohol probably isopropanol. The study was published in Psychology Science of 2009.

Katie Liljenquist and coworkers sprayed Windex in the air of test room, then volunteers played games involving trusting each other. Rules of that game are described here:

... participants engaged in a one-shot anonymous trust game (Berg, Dickaut, & McCabe, 1995) involving two parties: a sender and receiver. In a typical trust game, the sender is given money that he can choose to keep or "invest" with an anonymous receiver. Any money sent is tripled, and the receiver then decides how to split the tripled money. For example, if the sender passes all of the money and the receiver reciprocates this trust by returning half of the tripled amount, both would be better off. However, sending money can be risky if the receiver chooses to exploit the sender and keep all the invested money (Camerer, 2003).

People in the Windex scented rooms returned 2.6 times more money than people in the fragrant-free room. This means that the sense of Windex clean-ness made people more generous, or at least more trusting.

In a second experiment, volunteers were asked to donate money, and 2.33 times more people volunteered.

Thus Clean Scents Motivate Clean Behavior.

The thought is that clean scents, like clean surroundings, promote a sense of order and well-being that leads to trust and generosity.