Fancy Citrus, Feel Good: Positive Judgment of Citrus Odor, but Not the Odor Itself, Is Associated with Elevated Mood during Experienced Helplessness

  • Hoenen M
  • Müller K
  • Pause B
  • et al.
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Abstract

Aromatherapy claims that citrus essential oils exert mood lifting effects. Controlled studies, however, have yielded inconsistent results. Notably, studies so far did not control for odor pleasantness, although pleasantness is a critical determinant of emotional responses to odors. This study investigates mood lifting effects of d-(+)-limonene, the most prominent substance in citrus essential oils, with respect to odor quality judgments. Negative mood was induced within 78 participants using a helplessness paradigm (unsolvable social discrimination task). During this task, participants were continuously (mean duration: 19.5 min) exposed to d-(+)-limonene (n = 25), vanillin (n = 26), or diethyl phthalate (n = 27). Participants described their mood (Self-Assessment-Manikin, basic emotion ratings) and judged the odors’ quality (intensity, pleasantness, unpleasantness, familiarity) prior to and following the helplessness induction. The participants were in a less positive mood after the helplessness induction (p < .001), irrespective of the odor condition. Still, the more pleasant the participants judged the odors, the less effective the helplessness induction was in reducing happiness (p = .019). The results show no odor specific mood lifting effect of d-(+)-limonene, but indicate a positive effect of odor pleasantness on mood. The study highlights the necessity to evaluate odor judgments in aromatherapy research.

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Hoenen, M., Müller, K., Pause, B. M., & Lübke, K. T. (2016). Fancy Citrus, Feel Good: Positive Judgment of Citrus Odor, but Not the Odor Itself, Is Associated with Elevated Mood during Experienced Helplessness. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00074

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