Investigating the Crossmodal Influence of Odour on the Visual Perception of Facial Attractiveness and Age
Chen Y-C., Spence C.
Abstract We report two experiments designed to investigate whether the presentation of a range of pleasant fragrances, containing both floral and fruity notes, would modulate people’s judgements of the facial attractiveness (Experiment 1) and age (Experiment 2) of a selection of typical female faces varying in age in the range 20–69 years. In Experiment 1, male participants rated the female faces as less attractive when presented with an unpleasant fragrance compared to clean air. The rated attractiveness of the female faces was lower when the participants rated the unpleasant odour as having a lower attractiveness and pleasantness, and a higher intensity. In Experiment 2, both male and female participants rated the age of female faces while presented with one of four pleasant fragrances or clean air as a control. Only the female participants demonstrated a crossmodal effect, with the pleasant fragrances inducing an older rating for female faces in the 40–49-years-old age range, whereas a younger rating was documented for female faces in the 60–69-years-old age range. Taken together, these results are consistent with the view that while the valence of fragrance (pleasant versus unpleasant) exerts a robust crossmodal influence over judgements of facial attractiveness, the effects of pleasant fragrance on judgements of a person’s age appear to be less reliable. One possible explanation for the differing effect of scent in the two cases relates to the fact that attractiveness judgements are more subjective, hedonic, and/or intuitive than age ratings which are more objective, cognitive-mediated, and/or analytic in nature.