The Scent Of A Lemon Can Make You Feel Good About Your Appearance

Much is known, and is still undergoing study, about the ways that consuming lemons and other citrus fruits can help protect human health, and even treat disease. But, did you know that the scent of lemons alone can be beneficial?

Lemons Make You Feel Lighter

Researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK have found that the mere scent of a lemon can help people feel better about their body image. The 2019 study was conducted by the Sussex Computer-Human Interaction lab, in conjunction with other researchers in London and Madrid.

The researchers compared their test subjects’ reactions to different smells.

  • When people smelled vanilla, they tended to feel heavy and even overweight;
  • When they smelled a lemon scent, they felt lighter, and better about their body image overall.

Giada Brianza, a PhD student and lead researcher, is quoted in a media release.

“Our brain holds several mental models of one’s own body appearance which are necessary for successful interactions with the environment. These body perceptions are continuously updated in response to sensory inputs received from outside and inside the body. Our study shows how the sense of smell can influence the image we have in our mind of our body and on the feelings and emotions towards it.

“Being able to positively influence this perception through technology could lead to novel and more effective therapies for people with body perception disorders or the development of interactive clothes and wearable technology that could use scent to enhance people’s self-confidence and recalibrate distorted feelings of body weight.”

Why It’s Important

The research falls into the growing category of cognitive neuroscience, and also human-computer interaction. Technology, it seems, can be used to change people’s perceptions about their own body by stimulating the senses. Other studies have looked at how visual and other sensory stimuli affect how we feel about ourselves.

Dr Ana Tajadura-Jiménez of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid is also quoted in the release. “Our previous research has shown how sound can be used to alter body perception. For instance, in a series of studies, we showed how changing the pitch of the footstep sounds people produce when walking can make them feel lighter and happier and also change the way their walk.”

Marianna Obrist, Professor of Multisensory Experiences and head of the SCHI Lab at the University of Sussex, said, “Previous research has shown that lemon is associated with thin silhouettes, spiky shapes and high-pitched sounds while vanilla is associated with thick silhouettes, rounded shapes and low-pitched sounds. This could help account for the different body image perceptions when exposed to a range of nasal stimuli.

“One of the interesting findings from the research is that sound appears to have a stronger effect on unconscious behaviour whilst scent has a stronger effect on conscious behaviour. Further studies need to be carried out in order to better understand the potential around sensory and multisensory stimuli on BIP.”

The research has exciting potential applications in the area of treating chronic pain, as well as body dysmorphia, or a consuming fixation on perceived imperfections of the body.

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