Want people to look at something? Make it smell good. Rinaldi and her team report that “The prompt recognition of pleasant and unpleasant odors is a crucial regulatory and adaptive need of humans. Reactive answers to unpleasant odors ensure survival in many threatening situations. . . . humans typically respond to environmental stimuli . . . by moving toward positive cues and moving away from negative ones.” Also, “unpleasant odors significantly increasing heart rate.” The Rinaldi group’s research “demonstrates that odor pleasantness selectively shifts human attention in the surrounding space;” people look at the thing that smells good. The test scents used by the researchers were vanilla (pleasant smell) and civet (unpleasant scent).
Luca Rinaldi, Emanuela Maggioni, Nadia Olivero, Angelo Maravita, and Luisa Girelli. “Smelling the Space Around Us: Odor Pleasantness Shifts Visuospatial Attention in Humans.” Emotion, in press, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000335