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Proustian Products are Preferred: The Relationship Between Odor-Evoked Memory and Product Evaluation

Abstract

Introduction

The Proustian memory effect—that fragrances elicit more emotional and evocative memories than other memory cues—is well established. Fragrances also potentiate a variety of psychological states from moods to motivated behavior. Consumer research has shown that pleasant, product-congruent scents enhance product appeal, that products with greater emotional and cognitive involvement are perceived more positively, and that scent can increase recall for product information. However, the effect of Proustian memories on product perception has never been examined. The aim of the present study was to address this issue.

Methods

An extensive pilot test in which the methods for the main experiment were established was first conducted. The main experiment then tested how a product (body lotion) that varied in fragrance pleasantness and Proustian memory potency was perceived.

Results

Data analyses from a nationwide study showed that if the lotion fragrance was perceived as very pleasant, and it evoked potent personal emotional memories, that lotion was liked better and judged to be superior on a variety of functional and emotional attributes than the same lotion whose scent was perceived as equally pleasant but was not experienced as evocative.

Conclusions

Our findings demonstrate that it is the personal potency of Proustian memories evoked by a product’s fragrance, more than the hedonic qualities of the scent per se, that drives product perception and has important implications for the development of scented products.

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Compliance with Ethics Requirements

Conflict of Interest

Rachel Herz has received research grants from Kao Corporation. All other authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Correspondence to Rachel S. Herz.

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Sugiyama, H., Oshida, A., Thueneman, P. et al. Proustian Products are Preferred: The Relationship Between Odor-Evoked Memory and Product Evaluation. Chem. Percept. 8, 1–10 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12078-015-9182-y

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Keywords

  • Proustian memory
  • Odor
  • Pleasantness
  • Consumer preferences
  • Scented products