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Smells in the Workplace

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!

(Image credit: Drew Fairweather at Toothpaste for Dinner)

Research about business and business-like odors
compiled by Grover Dunn, Improbable Research staff

Corporeal Porosity in Office Work
“Smell Organization: Bodies and Corporeal Porosity in Office Work,” Kathleen Riach and Samantha Warren, Human Relations, epub October 9, 2014. The authors, at Monash University, Australia, and the University of Essex, UK, explain:

This article contributes to a sensory equilibrium in studies of workplace life through a qualitative study of everyday smells in UK offices. Drawing on Csordas’ (2008) phenomenology of intercorporeality, we develop the concept of corporeal porosity as a way of articulating the negotiation of bodily integrity in organizational experience. We explore the corporeal porosity of workplace life through smell-orientated interview and diary-based methods and our findings highlight the interdependence of shared, personal, local and cultural elementals when experiencing smell in office-based work.... Corporeal porosity, therefore, captures the entanglement of embodied traces and fragments – corporeal seeping and secretion that has hitherto taken a backseat in organizational studies of the body at work.

(Image credit: Some Ecards)

Olfactory Methodology for the Workplace
“Developing an Olfactory Methodology for Researching Workplace Smell: A Research Note,” Samantha Warren and Kathleen Riach, Essex Business School Working Paper Series 2014. The authors explain:

We were particularly interested in exploring the entanglement of smell and culture, the body and the social, following recent writings in sensory anthropology which insist upon the culturally infused character of sensory experience and expressly argue against psychologically reductionist accounts of senses as ‘triggers’ for cultural interpretation based on neurological pathways and related brain activity.... [We] decided to include observations of ‘live smelling’ in the research design.

Why Your Product Smells
“Product Scent and Memory,” Aradhna Krishna, May O. Lwin, and Maureen Morrin, Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 37, no. 1, June 2010, pp. 57-67. The authors, at the University of Michigan; Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; and Rutgers University, explain:

We focus... on the effects of product scent on consumer memories. For instance, if a pencil or a facial tissue is imbued with scent (vs. not), recall for the brand’s other attributes increases significantly—with the effects lasting as much as 2 weeks after exposure.

Take a Smell at Products
“The Individual Propensity to Take a Smell at Products,” Monika Koller, Thomas Salzberger, Alexander Zauner, Arne Floh, Maria Sääksjärvi, and Hendrik Schifferstein, Advances in Consumer Research, vol. 40, 2012, pp. 1039-1040. The authors, at Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien, Austria; the University of Surrey, UK; and Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands, explain:

“Need for Smell” (NFS) refers to an individual’s propensity to obtain olfactory information in purchase decision-making. Qualitative investigations as well as psychometric analyses based on the Rasch measurement model provide evidence for a three dimensional structure of NFS.


This article is republished with permission from the March-April 2016 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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