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The Psychology of Sight, Smell, and Sound



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Have you ever changed mood right out of the blue? Or felt very sleepy in the office or in the midst of a business conference for no reason? Or suddenly remembered about something that was completely out of context? You probably have, but were so carried away by the experience that you never actually wondered why that happened (like me!). Here is the solution to the mysteries: it’s because of your senses of sight, smell, and sound.

Smells can Bring up Memories…

You might not have noticed, but smell and memory are firmly linked. The olfactory bulb, which is that part of your brain that works out smells, is physically connected to the hippocampus and amygdala, which in turn form memories. This means that if you smell a particular fragrance while studying for an exam, for instance, you will be likely to remember what you have learned when perceiving that smell again. And that’s why when you were cooking that delicious apple pie you suddenly remembered something about your granny or about that time that you were playing with your cousin countless summers ago.

…And Act on Your Feelings

Smells can also have an effect on our subconscious. According to scientists, the peppermint scent can make you feel more ‘awake’ and increase your concentration. Other smells make you feel relaxed instead – if you’re a fan of aromatherapy you’ll know this already. Human beings become more responsive to smells when they find themselves in dangerous or emotionally challenging situations. So if you smell a certain scent that was present when you were in a difficult situation, the emotion you experienced at that time will resurface out of the blue.

While Colours have Physical Effects

Our site can influence us deeper than we think: some colors can affect our bodies. For instance, red raises our pulse rate and stimulates us, creating the impression that time is going by quicker. It also catches our attention, which is convenient given its effect of ‘time travel.’

Blue has quite the opposite effect – it makes the body produce chemicals that are calming. In fact, people tend to work more productively in a blue room as they feel calm and can focus on one task at a time. Orange instead is somehow thought to help digestion. Weird huh? The power of colors is pretty incredible and can have a powerful effect on a person’s mood when they enter a room.

And Sounds Affect our Well-being

Sound can really influence our well-being. Regular exposure at night to noise levels of just 50 decibels (which is comparable to a quiet office) increases blood pressure. So good sound design is essential in the workplace or the classroom.

When taken care of properly, sound can increase our productivity. Moreover, natural sounds such as water or wind have favorable effects. Some scientific studies even suggest that listening to certain kinds of music such as classical or ambient can improve attention, concentration, and work performance. How? By acting on the special-temporal reasoning, which is the ability to work out long-standing, more abstract solutions to logical issues.

Now that you know all this precious information, I hope you will use it to your advantage, as I decided to do. For example, try to set your office or conference venue design so that it can help your concentration and productivity – choose blue walls, add some red equipment, install some sound-absorbing surfaces, get a stereo, and don’t forget to make sure to sprinkle some peppermint fragrance around!

Have you ever exploited the psychology of sight, smell, and sound to your own advantage? Did it work? Let us know in the comments below!