RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—A clean room is not only hygienic, it may nudge people towards better behavior. A new study published this month in the medical journal Psychological Science revealed that people in a clean-smelling room were more likely to share money or express interest in volunteering than people in an unscented room.
THE DETAILS: Researchers under the direction of lead author Katie Liljenquist, assistant professor of organizational leadership at the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, asked participants to perform several tasks; half the participants were in unscented rooms and the other half were in rooms freshly spritzed with citrus-scented Windex. (In a follow-up questionnaire, none of the participants said they’d noticed the scent in the room.) The first experiment evaluated fairness. All participants received $12, which they were told was sent to them by an anonymous partner in another room; they had to decide how much of it to keep and how much to return to their partners who had trusted them to divide it evenly. People in clean-scented rooms were less likely to exploit their partners, returning an average of $5.33 to their partners, compared with the paltry $2.81 given back by those in the unscented room.
The second experiment evaluated charitable behavior. Participants were asked to volunteer for a Habitat for Humanity service project and donate funds to the cause. Those in the clean-smelling room were significantly more interested in volunteering, and 22 percent said they’d like to donate money. Just 6 percent of the participants in the unscented room indicated any interest in donating.
Published on: November 2, 2009
Updated on: March 11, 2010