Two experiments were conducted to investigate emotional associative learning to odors and subsequent behavioral effects. In Experiment 1, participants experienced a frustration mood induction in the presence of an unfamiliar ambient odor and later worked on puzzle tests in a room scented with either the same-odor, a different-odor, or no-odor. Participants in the same-odor condition spent significantly less time working on the tests than participants in the other conditions; however, test accuracy did not vary. To clarify the findings, Experiment 2 included a test-only control and an emotionally neutral same-odor conditions. Results were compatible with the conclusion that decreased time spent by participants in the negative-same-odor condition was due to emotions elicited by associative learning to the ambient odor, although alternative interpretations remain possible. These data extend our previous results with children and suggest that odors readily become associated to emotions and can thereby influence behavior.
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Herz, R.S., Schankler, C. & Beland, S. Olfaction, Emotion and Associative Learning: Effects on Motivated Behavior. Motiv Emot 28, 363–383 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-004-2389-x