Several studies note that people working in a particular environment -- the classroom, the office -- can be affected by the sounds and smells around them. Now researchers and others are investigating ways to use this information for the public good.
Scientists and others are looking into ways to influence the senses of sound and smell in order to achieve better performance outcomes in both the office and the classroom. For example, Illinois researcher Ravi Mehta tested people’s creativity while playing a background noise soundtrack at different volumes, and found that their creativity was at its peak when the volume was neither too high nor too low. In a London high school, special education students experience different and specific classroom scents depending on the subject being studied: “grapefruit scents for maths, lavender for French and spearmint for history.”
What’s the Big Idea?
With regards to sound in particular, studies have shown the detrimental effects of too much noise on young students. South Bank University acoustics professor Bridget Shield says, “Everything points to a detrimental impact…on children’s performance, in numeracy, in literacy, and in spelling.” Studies in scent aren’t as prevalent, although one notable study from 2003 found that subjects who were exposed to the scent of rosemary had elevated levels of a certain compound in their blood that was shown to help improve brain function.
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