How the smell of freshly-baked bread makes us kinder to strangers

  • @kevinJrawlinson

Its ability to sell a house has long been an old wives’ tale, now scientists believe the smell of freshly baked bread makes people kinder to strangers.

Researchers have found that people would be more likely to help passers-by if the aroma was in their nostrils.

The scientists from the University of Southern Brittany in France wanted to test the long-held view that smells can influence our behaviour.

They recruited eight volunteers and asked half to stand outside a bakery and half to stand outside a clothes shop. The participants rummaged in their bags, before dropping a glove, handkerchief or packet of tissues in front of a stranger. The researchers, observing from around 60ft away, found that 77 per cent stopped to help recover the lost items where the smell of fresh bread was strong, while only 52 per cent did so outside the clothes shop.

They said that their results, published in the Journal of Social Psychology, “show that, in general, spontaneous help is offered more in areas where pleasant ambient smells are spread,’ they said. This experiment confirms the role of ambient food odours on altruism”.