Olfactory Effects on Attention Allocation and Perception of Exertion

in The Sport Psychologist
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The aim of the current study was to test the effectiveness of pleasant odors on perception of exertion and attention allocation. A secondary purpose was to employ a placebo-control design and measure perceived smell intensity during task performance; methods that have been overlooked in previous olfaction studies in the sport and exercise domain. Seventy-six college students (35 females, 41 males) were recruited to perform a handgrip task. They were randomly assigned to one of 4 groups: control, placebo, lavender odor, and peppermint odor. Adhesive strips were placed under the noses of those in the latter three groups. The placebo group had a strip with no odor. The lavender and peppermint odor groups had a drop of concentration on the strip. After establishing a maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) level, participants performed at 30% of their MVC level for as long as they could tolerate, during which they provided ratings of perceived exertion (or effort; RPE), attention, and smell intensity at 30s intervals, and affect every 60s. MANOVA procedures failed to reveal significant differences among the treatment and nontreatment groups on rate of perceived exertion, attention allocation, and total time duration on the task. However, statistical differences were found between both odor groups and the placebo group on perceived attention diversion. The lavender group reported that the odor diverted attention to a higher degree than both the peppermint and placebo groups. Although nonsignificant, findings revealed a trend suggesting that odors may have an effect on cognitive processes, and on performance. There is a need for additional research to better capture these effects. Directions for further research, with an emphasis on methodological issues are outlined.

Basevitch, Thompson, Braun, Razon, Arsal, Tokac, Medeiros, Nascimento, and Tenenbaum are with the Dept. of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL.