LivingThe aroma of coffee seems to increase math achievement

The aroma of coffee seems to increase math achievement

Some studies have shown that coffee can lower the risk of heart problems, diabetes, and dementia, and even lower the risk of death. Now, a new study from the Stevens Institute of Technology reveals that nothing more than the aroma of coffee can help improve the analytical section of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT), a computerized adaptation test that is required in many business schools.

The work, led by Professor Adriana Madzharov of the Stevens School of Business, not only highlights the hidden benefits of aroma and the cognitive boost it provokes in analytical tasks, but also the expectations of students to better perform these tasks. Madzharov and his team have collaborated with colleagues from Temple University and Baruch College and have published their findings in the Journal of Enviromental Psychology .

“It’s not just that the smell of coffee helps people perform better analytical tasks, which is interesting enough,” says Madzharov. “It also makes them think that they will do better and this expectation is, in part, responsible for their improvement.” The smell of coffee, even without caffeine, has a similar effect to drinking coffee, suggesting a placebo effect of the aroma of this drink.

Improved cognitive skills

In their work, Madzharov and his team conducted a 10-question GMAT algebra test on about 100 undergraduate business students, dividing them into two groups. The first group carried out the tests with the presence of the coffee aroma in the environment, while the second group did the same tests without any aroma. They found that the group with the coffee smell scored significantly higher in the tests.

Madzharov and his team aim to go further and discover whether the improvement in the first group could be explained by a false expectation that the smell of coffee would increase their attention and, as a consequence, improve their performance.

The team designed a follow-up survey , conducted by more than 200 new participants, asking about the relationship between various scents and the effects they might have on human performance. Participants believed that they would feel more alert and energetic with a coffee aroma than with a flower or no smell, and that exposure to the smell of coffee would increase their performance in performing mental tasks. The results suggest that performance expectations can be explained by the belief that the essence of coffee makes people more vigilant and more energetic .

Madzharov, whose studies focus on sensory marketing and aesthetics, aims to investigate whether the aroma of coffee causes a similar placebo effect in other types of skills, such as verbal reasoning . He is confident that this discovery will have numerous practical applications, including in the business sector.

Reference: Adriana Madzharov. ‘The impact of coffee-like scent on expectations and performance.’ Journal of Environmental Psychology (2018). DOI: 10.1016 / j.jenvp.2018.04.001

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