Does Smell Hold the Secret to Creative Success?

The idea of ‘sleeping on a problem’ is well known and accepted as a perfectly acceptable way of dealing with a mental block.  A new study performed by a team led by Simone Ritter of the Radboud University Behavioral Science Institute in the Netherlands successfully linked smell with the success of ‘sleeping on it’.

Participants in the study were asked to watch a video on volunteerism before being asked for ideas on how to motivate people to volunteer more of their time. The participants were to sleep on the problem and provide ideas in the morning. Two-thirds of the participants watched the video and told the problem while exposed to a vanilla-orange scent.

Before going to bed, half of the original scent exposed group were given the same scent and half given an entirely different scent, while the third who weren’t exposed to the scent continued into slumber with no special smells in their noses.

The result should be obvious because why else would anyone be writing about this. Those people exposed to the same scent had more novel and creative ideas in the morning than the other two groups.  What does this mean? Simple. When struggling with a problem, ponder it with a key smell near you and then when you go to sleep, use that same smell.  Your very clever brain will link the smell with the problem and let your deep slumber churn up creative solutions.

It’s worth a chance, right? The worst case scenario is a night’s rest and really, a fresh mind surely is a valuable asset.

Published by Sean D. Francis

Sean D. Francis is a technologist, writer, and geek. He podcasts, makes video, and dabbles in all the geeky genres including horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.