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The Smell of Success?—The Impact of Perfume-Gender Congruency on Ratings of Attraction and the Halo Effect

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Research into the concept of attraction has indicated the existence of olfactory influences that go beyond pheromonal level. Synthetic fragrances have been found to affect not only perception of attraction, but also attribution of beauty-unrelated intrinsic characteristics. The present study aimed to examine the impact of perfume-gender congruency on ratings of attractiveness and any perfume-generated halo effect. Male faces categorized as low, medium and high attractiveness were rated by 36 heterosexual female students across six domains: attractive, reliable, outgoing, intelligent, wealthy and socially competent. Ratings were made in the presence of a female per-fume (incongruent condition), male perfume (congruent condition) or a no perfume control con-dition, with participants randomly allocated to produce three groups of equal size. The results in-dicated that 1) attractiveness generated a significant halo effect; 2) the male perfume did not sig-nificantly enhance perception of attractiveness compared to the female perfume; and 3) the gen-der-congruent fragrance heightened attribution of "halo" characteristics. These results indicate that gender congruent perfume can impact positively on first impressions beyond attractiveness, and are discussed in terms of possible mechanisms and implications.
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Advances in Chemical Engineering and Science, 2014, 4, 491-502
Published Online October 2014 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/aces
http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/aces.2014.44051
How to cite this paper: Marinova, R. and Moss, M. (2014) The Smell of Success?The Impact of Perfume-Gender Congru-
ency on Ratings of Attraction and the Halo Effect. Advances in Chemical Engineering and Science, 4, 491-502.
http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/aces.2014.44051
The Smell of Success?The Impact of
Perfume-Gender Congruency on Ratings of
Attraction and the Halo Effect
Radost Marinova, Mark Moss
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne,
UK
Email: mark.moss@unn.ac.uk
Received 25 August 2014; revised 10 September 2014; accepted 25 September 2014
Copyright © 2014 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Abstract
Research into the concept of attraction has indicated the existence of olfactory influences that go
beyond pheromonal level. Synthetic fragrances have been found to affect not only perception of
attraction, but also attribution of beauty-unrelated intrinsic characteristics. The present study
aimed to examine the impact of perfume-gender congruency on ratings of attractiveness and any
perfume-generated halo effect. Male faces categorized as low, medium and high attractiveness
were rated by 36 heterosexual female students across six domains: attractive, reliable, outgoing,
intelligent, wealthy and socially competent. Ratings were made in the presence of a female per-
fume (incongruent condition), male perfume (congruent condition) or a no perfume control con-
dition, with participants randomly allocated to produce three groups of equal size. The results in-
dicated that 1) attractiveness generated a significant halo effect; 2) the male perfume did not sig-
nificantly enhance perception of attractiveness compared to the female perfume; and 3) the gen-
der-congruent fragrance heightened attribution of halocharacteristics. These results indicate
that gender congruent perfume can impact positively on first impressions beyond attractiveness,
and are discussed in terms of possible mechanisms and implications.
Keywords
Perfume, Congruence, Attractiveness, Halo Effect
1. Introduction
Attraction is “the feeling of being drawn to one or more other individuals… and the extent to which any one in-
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492
dividual is attractive to or liked by others” [1]. Whilst no objective measure for the construct has been estab-
lished, Bull and Rumsey [2] envisioned it as a product of the consensus amongst raters. It is uniformly seen as
an honest indicator of reproductive fitness and genetic value, and its importance is reflected in the favourable
responses evoked in others [3] People often engage in peacockingbehaviours, such as grooming, investing in
cosmetics and dressing in carefully selected clothes, in attempt to manipulate perceived attraction levels [4].
A link between perceived physical beauty and the attribution of seemingly unrelated favourable characteris-
tics resulting from this initial positive perception, the halo effect” [5] is well established. Attractive individuals
are immediately endowed with a variety of favourable personal attributes including being intelligent [6], warm,
socially skilled, exciting, polite, extraverted [7], reciprocative and trustworthy [8], as a consequence of this
beautiful-is-goodstereotype. However, actual relationships between mental ability and personality traits, and
attractiveness are in fact negligible [9], suggesting that at least some of these attributions are erroneous. Never-
theless, the stereotype persists.
The importance of the halo effect is represented in the extent to which it affects numerous domains. Physi-
cally attractive pupils tend to receive more help from their teachers and more positive judgements regarding
their intellectual ability and future potential [10]. Later in life, they experience more favourable job-related out-
comes. Occupational literature strongly supports the existence of the halo effect; the emergence of socially de-
sirable features like competence and cooperation [11] [12] amass to applicant favourability. Thus, attaching a
highly attractive photograph to a résumé leads to an elevation of judgement of its quality and value [13], hiring
recommendations and predicted job success, irrespective of the interviewer’s level of professionalism or ex-
perience [14]. Further workplace implications are reflected in the wage gap benefitting good-looking individuals,
with attractiveness being reported as a more influential determinant of earnings than ability [15].
A number of biological and environmental factors have been found to facilitate attraction. From a biological
perspective, pheromones are a well-established intraspecific signalling system of genetic quality, fertility and
sexual readiness across most species, of which humans are not an exception. Despite the decrease in olfactory
acuity in humans, the ability to detect them in amounts as small as 100 picograms remains unaffected [16].
Pheromones act as natural attractants of the opposite sex. This effect is evident in the results of an experimental
study by Kirk-Smith and Booth [17]. An androsenone (male pheromone) treated chair was placed in a dentists
waiting room and the frequency with which men and women used it was recorded. Women tended to gravitate
towards the chair, whilst the odourless cue had the opposite effect on men. Although it would be expected that
close physical proximity would be required for detection of the pheromone, a similar study conducted in a wash
room found the same effect [18]. The authors suggest that the pheromone elicits feelings of safety and comfort
in females, which highlights the importance of the olfactory sense in cognition and perception. Additionally, in
the presence of androstenol (pheromone present in fresh male sweat) females rated male targets as more attrac-
tive, friendly, sexy and warm [19], implicating the generation of a halo effect.
In a different arena, retailers constantly strive to make products more attractive to customers in order to boost
sales, and this is often achieved through the manipulation of environmental odour. Specifically the congruency
between products and ambient smell in retail environments has been shown to impact on shopping tendencies.
Diffusing juniper berry (a primary ingredient of gin) aromas effectively boosted sales rates for alcohol [20].
Congruency between the target consumers and the smell within the environment may be of even greater impor-
tance. Spangenberg, Sprott, Grohmann & Tracy [21] demonstrated a doubling in womens clothes sales when
feminine scents were diffused in the air. The same effect was observed for men in the presence of masculine
odours, which might highlight the importance of employing a gender-matching fragrance in order to bring about
favourable responses and behaviours.
People often engage in personal odorizing and deodorizing rituals for a number of reasons. These include
avoidance of negative judgement and moral stigmatization resulting from poor body odour, attempting to obtain
the desired etiquette, for overall sense of personal appeal and confidence [22]. The perfume industry has recog-
nized the importance of olfactory cues and heavily relies on this unquestionable desire to be liked and accepted.
Perfume advertisements go as far as to suggest that their product enhances sexual appeal, often implying power,
success and charm [23]. They allege that explicitly male or female perfumes virtually guarantee the wearer the
acceptance and liking of others [24]. Whilst these claims may seem far-fetched, research has, in fact, provided
some support and demonstrated scent-elicited positive responses.
In Baron’s [25] experiment participants interacted briefly with a confederate who either wore a perfume (fe-
male fragrance Jungle Gardenia) or did not, and were subsequently asked to rate them. Results indicated posi-
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493
tive shifts in evaluation of the perfume-wearing confederate for both attractiveness and socially desirable attrib-
utes, in comparison to the one who did not wear a scent. Subsequently, in 1990, Kirk-Smith and Booth [26] in-
vestigated whether this effect extended to evaluations of individuals who were not physically present during or
prior to the assessment. Examining the potential cross-modal effect of pleasant ambient scent on judgement of
attractiveness of half-torso male and female photographs, the authors found a significant positive effect of fe-
male perfume Shalimaron perception of how sexyand softthe individual is, relative to a no perfume
condition. An elevation in mood was also reported; Kirk-Smith and Booth proposed that this mood shift was the
primary cause of the enhanced perceptions. However, a banana essence produced no such effect, despite being
rated as equally pleasant in a preliminary study. This reiterates the necessity for congruency between the target
and the smell as an individual is much more likely to be associated with a perfume than a food-related scent.
The visual-olfactory perceptual interaction was later addressed by Capparuccini, Berrie and Mazzatenta [27].
In a repeated measures design, a mixed-gender sample of raters visually assessed passport-sized photographs of
male and female faces across a range of qualities during non-conscious administration of male (Givenchy) or
female (Angel & Demon) perfumes. The focal rating traits were categorized into sexually-neutral (confidence
and familiarity), moderately sexually-related (liking and irritability) and highly sexually-related (charm, pleas-
antness, intensity, beauty, sexual interest and sexual attraction) groups. Results indicated a significant impact on
the latter two categories with higher ascriptions of those traits to both sexes as a result of the olfactory stimula-
tion. However, the findings only applied to trials where the sex of the facial stimuli and the gender-specific per-
fume corresponded, connoting the importance of congruency in this cross-modal interaction.
The current study will focus on the effect of the congruency between sex of target stimuli and gender-specific
scent on ratings of facial attractiveness. There will be a focus on the halo effect, so as to examine whether per-
fume can enhance the effect attractiveness alone does, and alter perception of the individual. Based on existing
literature three outcomes are hypothesized. Firstly, it is expected that more attractive stimuli will generate a halo
effect compared to less attractive stimuli irrespective of any impact of perfume. Secondly, congruency between
the gender-specific perfume and the sex of the facial stimuli will increase the ratings of attractiveness for all
stimuli, although whether this increase will be the same for all categories of stimuli attractiveness cannot be pre-
dicted. Thirdly, it is proposed that perfume-congruency will enhance the halo effect for the stimuli when com-
pared the incongruent perfume and no perfume conditions.
2. Method
The following procedure received ethical approval from the Department of Psychology Ethics Committee at
Northumbria University.
2.1. Design
A 3 (perfume exposed to: male vs. female vs. no perfume; between subjects) × 3 (level of attractiveness of faces:
low vs. medium vs. high; within subjects) mixed factorial design was employed for the purpose of the study.
The dependent variables were participants’ ratings on how attractive, reliable, outgoing, intelligent, wealthy and
socially competent the photographed males are, with the latter five adjectives being measures of the halo effect.
2.2. Participants
An opportunity sample consisting of 36 female Social Sciences undergraduate students from the North East of
England formed three groups of 12 people for each condition. All participants were of white Caucasian ethnic
origin and similar age (M = 20.83, SD = 0.90 in male perfume condition; M = 21.75, SD = 2.24 in female per-
fume condition; M = 20.08, SD = 0.86 in control condition). Fourteen participants were single whilst the other
22 reported currently being in a relationship. The exclusion criteria only allowed for heterosexual females with
normal or corrected-to-normal sight, no olfactory dysfunction, and in the absence of an active cold or flu, to take
part. All participants were unpaid volunteers.
2.3. Materials
A PowerPoint presentation with 5 unattractive, 5 averageand 5 attractivefemale faces, (based on the re-
sults from a pilot study) was utilized as stimuli. The faces exhibited a neutral expression or a closed-mouth smile.
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494
Humidity and temperature in the room were measured with a digital thermometer. Two commercially successful
perfumes were used for the experimental conditions: Hugo Boss-In Motion for men and Ghost-Ghost for women.
Participants recorded their ratings for each face on a 10 point scale for both attractiveness (1 = very unattractive,
10 = very attractive) and each of the five “halocharacteristics (1 = not at all, 10 = very much so).
2.4. Procedure
Two minutes prior to the participant’s arrival, the room (5 m length × 2.2 m width × 2.4 m height) was set up so
as to construct one of two experimental conditions, by spraying male or female perfume (four spritzes) in the air.
In a control condition no perfume was used. Assignation of participants to conditions was randomized. The
thermometer was placed on the desk near the laptop so as to measure the temperature experienced by the par-
ticipant as accurately as possible. The presentation started with a slide containing a set of instructions clarifying
the scoring process. At the press of the spacebar key participants were able to move on to the next slide which
displayed a different face stimulus, once a rating had been provided. The experimenter was not present in the
room for the duration of the experiment (approximately 15 - 20 minutes). Upon completion participants were
thanked and debriefed as to the true purpose of the study.
The average humidity in the room was measured to be 42.2% (lower bound = 39%; upper bound = 45%).
Room temperature was maintained between 15.7˚C and 17.7˚C, and fluctuated by no more than 0.3 degrees
across any one trial. The distance between the chair and laptop was kept consistent across trials at approximately
80 cm, which is the distance at which person-to-person interaction is expected to take place under normal cir-
cumstances. In order to reduce contamination between fragrances, the window was left open for at least 12 hours
when alternating between experimental conditions.
3. Results
Data were analysed using 3 × 3 mixed factorial Anovas with fragrance condition as the between groups factor
with three levels (congruent, incongruent and no perfume) and attractiveness of facial stimuli as the within
groups factor with three levels (high, medium and low attractiveness). Post hoc comparisons were calculated
using the Tukey method for the between groups factor and the Bonferroni method for the within groups factor.
3.1. Attractiveness
The descriptive statistics for ratings of attractiveness assigned to the images in the three stimuli categories and
three perfume conditions are presented in Table 1 below.
The analysis revealed a significant main effect of stimuli attractiveness category on the ratings of attractive-
ness given to the images F(2, 66) = 426.317, p < 0.001, partial eta squared = 0.928. Pairwise comparisons re-
vealed that the high attractive category (mean = 6.70) gained significantly higher ratings than the medium cate-
gory (mean = 4.10) which gained significantly higher ratings than the low category (mean = 1.89), p < 0.001 in
all cases. This clearly indicates that the categories of images used accurately reflected differences in attractive-
ness as designed.
No significant main effect of perfume on ratings of attractiveness was found F(2, 33) = 2.006, p = 0.151, par-
tial eta squared = 0.108.
Interestingly, a significant attractiveness by perfume interaction effect was identified, F(4, 66) = 3.720, p =
0.009, partial eta squared = 0.184. This is represented in Figure 1. As can be seen the incongruent per fume (Ghost)
Table 1. Means (Standard Deviations) of ratings of Attractivenessof high, medium and low attractiveness image catego-
ries under the three perfume conditions, N = 36.
High Medium Low Total
Congruent 6.88 (0.82) 4.73 (1.17) 2.10 (1.24) 4.57 (1.08)
Incongruent 7.03 (0.99) 3.68 (0.91) 1.63 (0.57) 4.12 (0.87)
No Perfume 6.18 (0.83) 3.88 (0.78) 1.95 (0.87) 4.01 (0.83)
Total 6.70 (0.94) 4.10 (1.05) 1.89 (0.93)
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495
Figure 1. Mean attractiveness ratings gained by each stimulus attractiveness
category in each perfume condition. Error bars depict standard deviations.
*denotes significant pairwise comparison from analysis of simple effects of
perfume type for each category of stimuli attractiveness.
is associated with the lowest ratings of attractiveness for the low and mediums attractiveness categories but that
this is not the case for the high attractiveness category where it is couple with the highest ratings. However, an
analysis of simple effects revealed that the only significant difference between conditions across the different at-
tractiveness categories was between the two perfume conditions in the medium category, p = 0.031, where the
congruent perfume produced the higher ratings.
3.2. Halo Effect
3.2.1. Reliable
Descriptive statistics for the ratings of the trait reliableby participants for the three categories of image in the
three perfume conditions are presented in Table 2.
The analysis revealed a significant main effect of stimuli attractiveness on ratings on this scale F(2, 66) =
60.942, p < 0.001, partial eta squared = 0.649. Pairwise comparisons indicated that ratings for the high attrac-
tiveness images (mean = 6.12) were significantly higher than for the medium attractiveness images (mean = 4.87)
which in turn were significantly higher than for the low attractiveness condition (mean = 3.49), p < 0.001 in all
cases.
No significant main effect of perfume condition was found for the reliablevariable, F(2, 33) = 2.406, p =
0.106, partial eta squared = 0.127.
The attractiveness by perfume condition interaction effect approached but did not reach statistical significance
F(4, 66) = 2.295, p = 0.068, partial eta squared = 0.122.
3.2.2. Outgoing
Descriptive statistics for the ratings of the trait outgoingby participants for the three categories of image in the
three perfume conditions are presented in Table 3.
The analysis revealed a significant main effect of stimuli attractiveness on ratings on the outgoingscale F(2,
66) = 190.080, p < 0.001, partial eta squared = 0.852. Pairwise comparisons indicated that ratings for the high
attractiveness images (mean = 7.41) were significantly higher than for the medium attractiveness images (mean
= 6.01) which in turn were significantly higher than for the low attractiveness condition (mean = 3.78), p <
0.001 in all cases.
A significant main effect of perfume condition was found for the outgoingvariable, F(2, 33) = 6.719, p =
0.004, partial eta squared = 0.289. Pairwise comparisons indicated that the congruent perfume (mean = 6.37)
produced significantly higher ratings than both the incongruent perfume (mean = 5.53), p = 0.032, and the no
perfume conditions (mean = 5.29), p = 0.004.
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496
Table 2. Means (Standard Deviations) of ratings on the trait Reliablefor high, medium and low attractiveness image cate-
gories under the three perfume conditions, N = 36.
High Medium Low Total
Congruent 6.80 (1.41) 5.50 (1.31) 3.30 (0.99) 5.20 (1.24)
Incongruent 5.95 (1.16) 4.48 (0.85) 3.68 (1.33) 4.71 (1.11)
No Perfume 5.60 (0.93) 4.62 (0.76) 3.48 (1.07) 4.57 (0.87)
Total 6.12 (1.26) 4.87 (1.07) 3.49 (1.12)
Table 3. Means (Standard Deviations) of ratings on the trait Outgoingfor high, medium and low attractiveness image cat-
egories under the three perfume conditions, N = 36.
High Medium Low Total
Congruent 7.93 (1.01) 6.48 (0.79) 4.68 (1.14) 5.53 (0.98)
Incongruent 7.53 (0.92) 5.68 (0.82) 3.38 (1.08) 6.37 (0.94)
No Perfume 6.77 (0.81) 5.85 (0.97) 3.27 (1.29) 5.29 (1.02)
Total 7.41 (1.01) 6.01 (0.91) 3.78 (1.31)
The attractiveness by perfume condition interaction effect did not reach statistical significance F(4, 66) =
1.864, p = 0.127, partial eta squared = 0.101.
3.2.3. Intelligent
Descriptive statistics for the ratings of the trait intelligentby participants for the three categories of image in
the three perfume conditions are presented in Table 4.
The analysis revealed a significant main effect of image attractiveness on ratings on the intelligentscale F(2,
66) = 9.097, p < 0.001, partial eta squared = 0.216. Pairwise comparisons indicated that ratings for the high at-
tractiveness images (mean = 6.53) were significantly higher than for the medium attractiveness images (mean =
6.044), p = 0.042, and the low attractiveness condition (mean = 5.583), p = 0.003. The medium and low attrac-
tiveness images did not differ significantly on this scale, p = 0.101.
A significant main effect of perfume condition was also found for the “intelligentvariable, F(2, 33) = 5.230,
p = 0.011, partial eta squared = 0.241. Pairwise comparisons revealed that the congruent perfume (mean = 6.57)
produced significantly higher ratings than the no perfume condition (mean = 5.68), p = 0.011. The difference
between the congruenat and incongruent perfume (mean = 5.92) approached but did not reach statistical signifi-
cance, p = 0.087. The incongruent and no perfume conditions did not differ, p = 1.
The attractiveness by perfume condition interaction effect did not reach statistical significance F(4, 66) =
1.151, p = 0.340, partial eta squared = 0.065.
3.2.4. Wealthy
Descriptive statistics for the ratings of the trait wealthyby participants for the three categories of image in the
three perfume conditions are presented in Table 5.
The analysis revealed a significant main effect of stimuli attractiveness on ratings on the wealthyscale F(2,
66) = 28.704, p < 0.001, partial eta squared = 0.465. Pairwise comparisons indicated that ratings for both the
high attractiveness images (mean = 5.983) and the medium attractiveness images (mean = 5.494) were signifi-
cantly higher than for the low attractiveness condition (mean = 4.456), p < 0.001 in each case. The high and me-
dium attractiveness images did not differ significantly on this variable, p = 0.090.
A significant main effect of perfume condition was also found for the wealthyvariable, F(2, 33) = 5.247, p
= 0.011, partial eta squared = 0.241. Pairwise comparisons revealed that the congruent perfume condition (mean
= 5.96) produced significantly higher ratings than both the incongruent perfume (mean = 4.98), p = 0.024, and
the no perfume conditions (mean = 4.99) p = 0.026. The incongruent perfume and no perfume conditions did not
differ, p = 1.
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Table 4. Means (Standard Deviations) of ratings on the trait Intelligentfor high, medium and low attractiveness image
categories under the three perfume conditions, N = 36.
High Medium Low Total
Congruent 6.98 (1.12) 6.85 (1.27) 5.87 (1.07) 6.57 (1.15)
Incongruent 6.63 (0.97) 5.63 (1.04) 5.48 (0.85) 5.92 (0.95)
No Perfume 5.98 (1.23) 5.65 (0.57) 5.40 (1.05) 5.67 (0.95)
Total 6.53 (1.16) 6.04 (1.13) 5.58 (0.99)
Table 5. Means (Standard Deviations) of ratings on the trait Wealthyfor high, medium and low attractiveness image cat-
egories under the three perfume conditions, N = 36.
High Medium Low Total
Congruent 6.58 (1.42) 6.18 (1.14) 5.10 (1.14) 5.95 (1.23)
Incongruent 5.71 (0.92) 5.17 (0.72) 4.07 (1.12) 4.98 (0.92)
No Perfume 5.65 (1.24) 5.13 (0.86) 4.20 (1.21) 4.99 (1.10)
Total 5.98 (1.25) 5.49 (1.02) 4.46 (1.22)
The attractiveness by perfume condition interaction effect did not reach statistical significance F(4, 66) =
0.068, p = 0.991, partial eta squared = 0.004.
3.2.5. Socially Competent
Descriptive statistics for the ratings of the trait socially competentby participants for the three categories of
image in the three perfume conditions are presented in Table 6.
The analysis revealed a significant main effect of stimuli attractiveness on ratings on this scale F(2, 66) =
92.090, p < 0.001, partial eta squared = 0.736. Pairwise comparisons indicated that ratings for the high attrac-
tiveness images (mean = 7.49) were significantly higher than for the medium attractiveness images (mean = 6.29)
which in turn were significantly higher than for the low attractiveness condition (mean = 4.30), p < 0.001 in all
cases.
A significant main effect of perfume condition was also found for the socially competentvariable, F(2, 33)
= 4.870, p = 0.014, partial eta squared = 0.228. Pairwise comparisons indicated that the congruent perfume
(mean = 6.59) produced significantly higher ratings than the no perfume condition (mean = 5.58), p = 0.013. No
difference was found between the congruent perfume and incongruent perfume (mean = 5.92) conditions, p =
0.146, or between the incongruent perfume and no perfume conditions, p = 0.952.
The attractiveness by perfume condition interaction effect did not reach statistical significance F(4, 66) =
0.975, p = 0.427, partial eta squared = 0.056.
3.3. Potentially Confounding Variables
Previous research has identified self-rated attractiveness, week of menstrual cycle and relationship status as
confounding variables in perception of attractiveness. A Pearson correlation indicated no significant correlation
Table 6. Means (Standard Deviations) of ratings on the trait Socially Competentfor high, medium and low attractiveness
image categories under the three perfume conditions, N = 36.
High Medium Low Total
Congruent 8.10 (1.37) 6.87 (1.51) 4.80 (1.51) 6.59
Incongruent 7.67 (0.72) 6.12 (0.72) 3.97 (1.14) 5.91
No Perfume 6.72 (1.07) 5.90 (0.83) 4.13 (1.14 5.58
Total 7.49 (1.21) 6.29 (1.13) 4.30 (1.29)
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between self-rated attractiveness and provided ratings of attractiveness for the facial stimuli. A MANOVA indi-
cated no significant effect of week of cycle on ratings of attraction. A second MANOVA concerned with the in-
fluence of relationship status on ratings revealed no significant effect of this variable.
4. Discussion
The analysis of the data revealed some interesting findings. Firstly, the pilot study identification of facial stimuli
rated as low, medium and high in attractiveness was clearly successful as the main effect for the ratings of at-
tractiveness given here indicates a clear difference between the three categories. This provides validation that
any subsequent effects of category of stimulus can be attributed to differences in attractiveness. The lack of a
significant effect of perfume type on ratings of attractiveness was not predicted and suggests that any impact of
perfume type on any of the halo characteristics may not be mediated solely by an increase in perceived attrac-
tiveness of the stimuli. The significant interaction between stimulus category and perfume condition might sug-
gest that the impact of perfume on ratings of attraction for the differing categories might be more complex than
first envisaged. However, the analysis of simple effects (as presented in Figure 1) identified that the only sig-
nificant increase in attractiveness as a consequence of perfume type is when comparing the congruent and in-
congruent perfumes for the medium attractive stimuli. The comparison between the congruent and no perfume
conditions in this category approached but did not reach statistical significance. It might be expected that the
medium category would be most available for change of ratings, sitting as it does in the middle of the scale and
therefore with headroom for modulation in both directions. However, given that the use of perfumes is based
upon increasing attractiveness, it could be argued that the low attractiveness category could be the one where
most effect might be noticed given the initial low baseline. The lack of any such effect perhaps indicating that
the strength of the visual stimuli overwhelmed any possible impact of perfume in terms of ratings of attractive-
ness.
As might be predicted strong significant effects of attractiveness category were found for each halo effect
variable with the more attractive stimuli gaining the most positive ratings. Existing literature has identified an
attractiveness-induced halo effect concerning intelligence [6] and trustworthiness (which can be seen as a proxy
for reliable; [8]). Strong links with perceived outgoingness, sincerity, extraversion and friendliness are also
commonly reported [7]. Whilst social competence has not been examined as such, the latter two adjectives can
be seen as proxies of the trait. Thus the present findings are consistent with previous reports, endorsing attrac-
tiveness as the key predictor of personal evaluations. Given the somewhat disappointing impact of perfume on
the measures of attractiveness however, the findings for the effect perfume condition on the halo effect variables
are even more striking. With the exception of the “Reliable” variable, significant main effects of perfume were
found for each of these variables with the congruent male perfume producing the highest ratings, and the incon-
gruent female perfume often producing ratings that did not differ significantly to the no perfume condition. The
clear conclusion that might be drawn from this is that congruency is important when selecting perfume if it is to
be employed to facilitate favourable first impressions, even if these might not extend to how attractive one is
perceived.
So, if the impact of perfumes is not directly on attractiveness and the effects of perfume and attractiveness are
somewhat independent when it comes to induced halo effects, how might we explain the congruency effect?
Consideration of the hedonic valence hypothesis leads to its early rejection here. The rate at which an individual
may become aware of a smell depends on its hedonic quality, such that foul smells are detected notably faster,
produce more rapid behavioural responses [28] [29], and less than favourable evaluations of face stimuli [30].
Pleasant smells do not evoke this rapid response and prolonged exposure is required for an overt effect to be
observed. As Kirk-Smith and Booth established, such scents have an indirect impact on participants’ mood, so
favourable judgements emerge as a by-product [24] [26]. Although mood was not measured in the current study,
the notion that the incongruent (female) perfume was considered unpleasant seems implausible given the suc-
cessful commercial nature of the product. As such the difference between the congruent and incongruent per-
fume conditions is unlikely to be a consequence of mood changes based on the pleasantness of the perfume me-
diating the effects observed for ratings of the halo variables. To provide further evidence regarding this, future
research should administer a mood rating scales before and after completion of the study,and include a measure
of odour pleasantness. Interestingly, Capparuccini and colleagues investigated the impact of hedonic valence
and failed to observe a halo effect for sexually-neutral characteristics of the kind employed here [27]. A plausi-
ble explanation for this discrepancy might be found in the congruence of the perfumes they employed, especially
R. Marinova, M. Moss
499
as they were applied to stimuli of a range of ages and for both genders in a repeated measures design. The cur-
rent study clearly indicates that a gender-congruent perfume can produce a halo effect for a range of sexually
neutral characteristics, whereas an incongruent one does not. The question remains as to why this effect has been
observed?
Findings from research in the arena of food and product preference might provide some suggestions. We gen-
erally see products and foods before smelling and/or eating them. Early visual cues convey sensory impressions
and may generate strong expectations, especially for olfactory perception, [31]-[33]. According to the assimila-
tion-contrast theory [34], visual information is subsequently confirmed or disconfirmed through the smelling or
eating experience of the product itself [35]. Expected and actual experiences are therefore combined to produce
the final evaluation of the stimulus. Zellner’s group showed that congruent visual-odourdrink combinations are
rated more pleasant, easier to identify, and consequently increasing the positive hedonic value [36]. Zellner and
Durlach studied the influence of colour-flavour congruence on the expected and experienced refreshment, inten-
sity, and liking of beverages. Lemon and mint solutions coloured brown were rated as less refreshing and less
liked, than when paired with congruent colours [37]. In the same vein, it has beenreported that congruence be-
tween colour and odour was important for determining the freshness of soft drinks, dishwashing liquids and
scented candles [38]. Applying a reverse version of the assimilation-contrast theory to the findings of the current
study might suggest that the ambient male oriented perfume produced an expectation of male visual stimuli and
that this pairing led to enhanced evaluations once the stimuli presentation took place. However, although pleas-
ant in itself, the incongruent female perfume might produce the expectation of female visual stimuli and the in-
congruence of this expectation when paired with male stimuli might, as observed, reduce ratings to a level equal
to that when no perfume is presented.
The slightly uneven distribution of the halo effect is not well explained through this reasoning, but considera-
tion of other factors can help. The non-significant effect for the “Reliable” variable might indeed be a conse-
quence of sample size, with the effect size here being larger than those often found for the impact of aromas on
other aspects of cognition and mood e.g. [39]-[41]. Certainly, consideration of the mean values indicates differ-
ences that in terms of direction are in line with the significant effects found for the other halo effect variables,
but with a smaller effect size present. Perhaps it might be a consequence of this variable always being presented
first in the list that produced the smaller effect. Future research should consider balancing the presentation of the
dependent variables in order to prevent any such possibility. When considered in these terms the failure of the
congruent perfume to impact significantly on ratings of attractiveness might also be explained as this measure
was taken for each stimulus prior to completion of the halo variables scales. These possibilities are worthy of
further investigation. The relatively small effect for the Wealthvariable which appeared later in the series of
variables to rate might be attributed to the fact that it is not a personality attribute per se; instead it is a material-
istic concept that might be a proxy for life success. The abundance of research support for beauty-generated halo
effects has covered intrinsic factors directly related to the persona. And although literature has suggested per-
sonality can be derived from the face [42], the extrinsic nature of the Wealthvariable might make this less
available for inflation. However, data previously reported have demonstrated that attractiveness is directly pro-
portional to perceived Socio Economic Statusa concept closely related to wealth [43].
Consistent with Berliner’s results indicating a pheromone-generated halo effect in a female sample [19], the
current study has demonstrated that commercially available sex-congruent perfumes can produce a similar effect.
This emphasizes the role of olfactory cuesincluding those with no biological significanceamongst women.
Males have been shown to be equally affected by pheromones, but their response to synthetic smells must be
tested comprehensively too, to see if similar effects to those reported here will be found, despite males naturally
lower threshold for olfactory cues [44]. Additional sex differences that go beyond female superiority in smell
perception also present opportunities for further investigation. Firstly, women assign more importance to smell
in mate selection; conversely, men base such decisions primarily on visual cues [45]. This suggests that olfac-
tory sensory information may go largely unnoticed by male participants, implying that responses to smell by
men and women may be of different nature and magnitude [46]. Secondly, a phenomenon known as “female
positivity” referring to womens’ tendency to assign positive traits to others, due to their nurturing and socially
sensitive nature may be evident in the current data [47]. Whether this phenomenon is independent of olfactory
modulation would make an interesting investigation.
A major procedural issue concerning much olfactory-related research is the lack of alternation between scents.
Due to the nature of the design of the present study, this limitation could not have been addressed, and an effect
R. Marinova, M. Moss
500
known as “olfactory fatigue” may have resulted from it. Olfactory fatigue is the sensory habituation to olfactory
stimuli following stimulation presented at a constant level for as little as a few seconds, resulting in blunting of
the sense [48]. This proposal has been supported by the work of Ekman and colleagues, who reported that the
intensity of odour perception decreased exponentially as duration of odour presentation increased [49]. Interest-
ingly, when presented to a supposedly neutral/healthy scent, participants showed rapid adaptation, but became
more sensitized when they were informed they were in the presence of a hazardous odour [50], suggesting a dif-
ferential adaptation interval as a result of perceived odour “quality”. Future research would benefit from per-
forming pilot studies whereby the length of time taken to habituate to a smell is investigated prior to the experi-
mental phase. Subsequently, the duration of the study should be accommodated to this time frame so as to en-
sure that perception remains above the threshold throughout the study.
To conclude, the findings reported here indicate that our views and opinions of others can be influenced by
facial attractiveness, and furthermore that this influence can be further affected by gender congruent perfume.
The finding that the effect of perfume on ratings of a range of personal attributes might be found even if attrac-
tiveness is not significantly increased provides a novel outcome to be considered in future research. Overall, re-
sults here and elsewhere have potential implications in a wide range of contexts. The correct perfume selection
might lead individuals to be rated more positively on a range of characteristics that could increase success in a
romantic encounter. Moreover, and potentially more important are the possible effects on events and activities
related to life success. For example, perfume generated halo effects could improve the ratings of students in the
classroom; could lead candidates to fare better in a job interview, or even the workplace and associated reviews
and appraisals. The possible existence of such effects in applied contexts warrants the development of an applied
field of research in this area.
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... Elsewhere, Marinova and Moss (2014) reported that people's ratings of various characteristics of person perception beyond just attractiveness or pleasantness were affected by the presence versus absence of gender-congruent versus gender-incongruent fragrance. The female participants who took part in this study had to rate 15 male faces (five of high attractiveness, five of medium attractiveness, and five of low attractiveness) on six attributes: attractive, reliable, outgoing, intelligent, wealthy, and socially competent. ...
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... Both hedonically valenced, and gendered fragrances have been shown to influence ratings of the people shown in still, if not necessarily in dynamically changing, images (see Novak et al., 2015;Syrjänen et al., 2017). Meanwhile, combining the results reported by Capparuccini et al. (2010), Marinova and Moss (2014), and Seubert et al. (2014), it would appear that the crossmodal effects of olfaction on visual perception are typically more apparent for certain judgments (attributes) than for others. In particular, crossmodal effects on visual ratings appear most pronounced for judgments of facial attractiveness (considered part of the affective system and perhaps indexing mate-selection; see also Corley & Raudenbush, 2002) and the seemingly interchangeably used terms of pleasantness (Cook et al., 2015(Cook et al., , 2017(Cook et al., , 2018, likability (Li et al., 2007), and beauty (Capparuccini et al., 2010). ...
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... While facial attractiveness has been rated by participants in the majority of studies that have been published to date in the area, it is interesting to note how a variety of other judgements have been made concerning other personal qualities, such as gender (Kovács et al., 2004), affect (Pause et al., 2004;Walla, 2008), competence (Capparuccini et al., 2010), and even intelligence (Marinova and Moss, 2014). However, when it comes to judgements of a person's age based on viewing a static photo of his/her face, a perception which is suggested to involve a learned, analytic, higher-order cognitive mechanism (Bzdok et al., 2012;Chatterjee et al., 2009;McGraw et al., 1989;Seubert et al., 2014), the literature concerning crossmodal olfactory modulations is far less clear (see Spence, 2021, for a recent review). ...
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... He found that wearing perfume led to an increase in attractiveness of the female confederate to male participants (but only if she was dressed informally rather than more formally). Given this finding (see also Kirk-Smith & Booth, 1987;Marinova & Moss, 2014), a positive effect of androstenol on attractiveness ratings may be attributable simply to the odour being perceived as pleasant. ...
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... These argue that aspects of human cognition have evolved to facilitate detection of, and response to, others who may cause us harm, or whose genetic fitness makes them an attractive companion (Schaller, 2008). A growing number of studies have shown that participants will make adverse inferences about a target based on unpleasant or unexpected odors, as well as morphological anomalies, which may once have been symptomatic of parasitic infections (Marinova & Moss, 2014;Schaller & Duncan, 2007;Sorokowska, 2013). Such inferences appear to occur even when perceivers know that the anomaly is misleading (Duncan, 2005) or that their response reflects an inappropriate stereotype (Sczesny & Stahlberg, 2002). ...
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... In the latter study, the authors provide evidence that faces were rated as significantly less attractive when presented with an unpleasant ambient odor in comparison to the no-odor condition. Marinova and Moss (2014) showed that the use of gender-congruent fragrances can increase the "halo effect" of certain socially desirable characteristics, such as intelligence. Consequently, fragrances may also modulate selfperception, including self-confidence, which may in turn influence the attractiveness of the person wearing the fragrance. ...
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Facial attractiveness plays an important role in everyday social interactions. In the present study, we investigated whether people's evaluation of attractiveness can be modulated by odours. In Experiment 1, twelve participants rated a series of odours on several perceptual and synaesthetic characteristics (gender, pleasantness, cheerfulness, intensity, arousal and association with food), along visual analogue scales. In Experiment 2, the participants judged the attractiveness of female and male faces, while smelling an odour that was rated in Experiment 1 as more feminine (caramel), masculine (licorice) or when odourless water was presented. The results showed that the participants evaluated female faces as more attractive when the caramel odour was concurrently presented. By contrast, the participants evaluated the male faces as more attractive when the licorice odour was presented. These results highlight the importance of the synaesthetic associations between “gender” and odours on people's judgements of facial attractiveness. Male and female faces attractiveness enhanced by the odours.
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Androstenone, a steroid present in men's axillary sweat, was sprayed onto a seat in a position previously avoided by women, in a dentist's waiting room. Three levels were used, 3.2, 16 or 32 ug, with observations taken at half-hour intervals over four days at each level. Significantly more women used the odorised seat when it bore 3.2 or 32 ug androstenone and fewer men at 32 ug. The effect might be due to women's experience of the odour's association with men and/or a perceived similarity between the odour and certain perfume notes (their experience of which may have positive associations)
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Sensation (noun) is emergent in joint acts of sensing (verb). To sense, in other words, is to make sense, and sense making entails what we call "somatic work." We investigate these dynamics in the context of olfaction, highlighting how olfaction intersects with social, cultural, and moral order-thus compelling reflexive forms of somatic work by which people manage smell (as an act) and odor (as a sign). Our data are drawn from a convenience sample of twenty-three participants who reflected on their olfactory experiences through the use of research journals. We focus on three central dynamics: participants 'attribution of meaning to odors, the somatic rules that structure perception, and olfactory facework. The participants in this study attribute meaning to odor through odiferous indexes that intersect with an individual's somatic career; olfactory somatic rules entail disciplined somatic work in relation to the intensity of odor, its context, and moral/aesthetic character. Because odor conveys meaning, it is part of the ritualized facework of everyday life. Odor is a subtle but significant component of the culturally normative and aesthetic rituals of expressive and impressive everyday life.
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The study of the human response to food is a complex and rapidly evolving field. It encompasses a wide range of scientific disciplines, ranging from food science and technology to nutrition, biochemistry, physiology, psychology, marketing and catering. As may be expected in such an interdisciplinary area, numerous scientific concepts have evolved to describe various aspects of the phenomenon under investigation. However, the terminology used to describe these concepts, as well as the methods for measuring them, differ from one discipline to another. Food ‘acceptance’ is one such concept. Since the focus of this chapter concerns factors that influence food acceptance, I would first like to describe and define food acceptance and then to detail the operational approach that we have used to measure it in the laboratory.
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A survey study examining the relative importance of various social and physical traits in heterosexual attraction was conducted. Data from 198 male and female heterosexual college students revealed that women ranked body odor as more important for attraction than “looks” or any social factor except “pleasantness.” Moreover, in contrast to response to fragrance use, liking someone's natural body odor was the most influential olfactory variable for sexual interest for both men and women. Men rated a woman's good looks as most desirable and as more important than any other factor except pleasantness. Sex differences in the relative ranking of several social factors were consistent with prior research.
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This article examines the effect of students’ physical attractiveness on a variety of judgments made in educational settings. This review discusses the following issues: (a) methodology for studying physical attractiveness in the classroom; (b) teacher judgments, expectations, and impressions of physically attractive students; and (c) the influence of moderator variables such as gender, race, conduct, and physical attractiveness effects. A descriptive and a meta-analytic review of the research indicated that physically attractive students are judged usually more favorably by teachers in a number of dimensions including intelligence, academic potential, grades, and various social skills. The potential influence of moderator variables—such as, student gender, race, and past performance on the physical attractiveness bias—is also examined. Finally, the possible mechanisms responsible for the attractiveness effect and the limitations of this research are discussed.
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Most of us know there is a payoff to looking good, and in the quest for beauty we spend countless hours and billions of dollars on personal grooming, cosmetics, and plastic surgery. But how much better off are the better looking? Based on the evidence, quite a lot. The first book to seriously measure the advantages of beauty,Beauty Paysdemonstrates how society favors the beautiful and how better-looking people experience startling but undeniable benefits in all aspects of life. Noted economist Daniel Hamermesh shows that the attractive are more likely to be employed, work more productively and profitably, receive more substantial pay, obtain loan approvals, negotiate loans with better terms, and have more handsome and highly educated spouses. Hamermesh explains why this happens and what it means for the beautiful--and the not-so-beautiful--among us. Exploring whether a universal beauty standard exists, Hamermesh illustrates how attractive workers make more money, how these amounts differ by gender, and how looks are valued differently based on profession. The author wonders whether extra pay for good-looking people represents discrimination, and, if so, who is discriminating. He investigates the commodification of beauty in dating and how this influences the search for intelligent or high-earning mates, and even considers whether government programs should aid the ugly. Hamermesh also discusses whether the economic benefits of beauty will persist into the foreseeable future and what the "looks-challenged" can do to overcome their disadvantage. © Daniel S. Hamermesh Princeton University Press. All Rights Reserved.
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Many studies mentioned in this book have suggested that the social psychology of facial appearance is an important topic. However, Sorrell and Nowak (1981) pointed out that “Developmentalists have virtually ignored appearance variables in their empirical research.” This chapter will examine the effects of facial appearance, particularly attractiveness, in the educational setting. We will examine whether teachers (and others) expect attractive students’ behavior and academic performance to be different from that of unattractive students, and whether evaluations of academic work such as essays are influenced by the facial appearance of the supposed authors of this work. Then we will look at those few published studies that have sought to determine whether in reality there actually does exist a relationship between facial appearance and academic competence. The effects of teachers’ facial appearance will also be examined. The focus of the following chapter will move from the educational setting to more widely examine the effects of facial appearance on children. In this chapter we have organized the literature so as to be able to differentiate between studies that have merely examined expectations and those that have tested for “real” effects of facial appearance.
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Four psychological theories are considered in determining the effects of disconfirmed expectations on perceived product performance and consumer satisfaction. Results reveal that too great a gap between high consumer expectations and actual product performance may cause a less favorable evaluation of a product than a somewhat lower level of disparity.
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A total of 94 undergraduate males participated in an experiment designed to examine the impact of a pleasant scent (perfume) on interpersonal attraction and social perception. Subjects met and interacted briefly with one of two female confederates who either wore perfume or did not, and who were dressed either neatly (in a blouse, skirt, and hose) or informally (in jeans and a sweatshirt). Results indicated that the presence of a pleasant scent increased attraction toward the confederates and produced positive shifts in perceptions of several of their traits when they were dressed informally. When the confederates dressed in a neater manner, however, opposite effects were observed. These findings were interpreted as stemming from the fact that subjects reacted more favorably to the confederates when they appeared to be intermediate rather than high or low along a dimension of informality-formality.