Coffee’s pleasures have long been proven to go beyond its function as a social and mental stimulant. For instance, its anti-inflammatory properties may contribute to greater longevity and it might lower your risk of type-2 diabetes. Most of these benefits are typically attributed to ingestion. But what if the smell of coffee led to a boost in your productivity? And what if that scent didn’t have to come from coffee at all?
The results of a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology lend a lot of credence to the idea, as Newsweek reports. The paper describes 114 undergraduate business students who were asked to take a Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT). One group was led into a room filled with the scent of coffee (which was generated by an electric diffuser) to take the 10-question algebra exam; another was taken into a room that didn’t carry the aroma. Participants who were in the Starbucks-esque environment scored significantly higher than students deprived of the scent.
The subjects later disclosed that they felt emboldened by the coffee smell as soon as they walked into the room, believing they would be more cognitively focused and better equipped to deal with the pending math problems. Since these students had higher expectations of themselves, it’s clear the smell created a placebo effect. It’s also possible that their past experience with coffee boosting their alertness created an olfactory association with its benefits. Even without actual caffeine, the students were still able to improve their mental functioning. Previously, scientists have discovered that sleep-deprived rats who smell coffee were able to ease their fatigue-related stress.
Still, while it’s perfectly fine to huff the aroma coming from your cup, you should stop short of actually snorting it. Powdered caffeine can easily facilitate an overdose of the drug that can lead to heart failure.