Why losers in life have smell of failure

Scientists have discovered that people's sense of smell can make the difference between success and failure. The influence can be so powerful that once a particular smell becomes associated with failure any future exposure can turnwinners into losers.

Scientists have discovered that people's sense of smell can make the difference between success and failure. The influence can be so powerful that once a particular smell becomes associated with failure any future exposure can turnwinners into losers.

Some athletes who perform badly, a proportion of people who fail exams, and a few of those prone to accidents may all be victims of the essence of failure. A footballer who misses an open goal when the smell of hot pasties is wafting across the field, for example, may miss again when confronted with the identical smell and another open net.

Scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia succeeded in establishing the existence of a sense of failure by putting volunteers inside a maze to see if they were able to navigate their way out. While they were trying to solve the problem, they were unaware that they were being exposed to a subtle flower scent. What they also did not know was that it was an impossible maze and that they were bound to fail.

Some time later, the volunteers took another, but this time solvable test; some were exposed to the same scent, and others to another smell or no odour at all.

Dr Ruth Herz, who led the research, said: "We found that the flower odour produced a conditioned response. Those who were exposed to the same odour as for the maze task performed significantly worse. The feeling of failure induced by the smell led them to perform below their natural ability in the second and solvable test.

"What is especially important is that not only does the smell re-evoke the old feelings of failure but it actually influenced performance on something not related to the original experience. Our results suggest that scents that have acquired specific emotional responses can alter behaviour and performance.''

For some people, their personal smell of failure will work at a conscious level, and for others, at a subconscious level.

Dr Herz and her team are now working on the smell of success. The idea is that if the smell of failure can trigger people into becoming losers, then a scent associated with success could turn losers into winners.

"If you had odour that was associated with success and achievement it could be used at a later date to motivate people. In the same way, scents associated with security might help alleviate anxiety,'' she said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
Man taking selfie in front of car
health
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore