Can pleasant aromas help a student learn better? Hirsch and Johnston, of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, believe that the presence of a floral scent can improve a person's learning ability in certain situations. In their experiment, 22 people worked through a set of two pencil and paper mazes six times, three times while wearing a floral-scented mask and three times wearing an unscented mask. Individuals were randomly assigned to wear the floral mask on either their first three tries or their last three tries. Participants put on their masks one minute before starting the first trial in each group to minimize any distracting effect. Subjects recorded whether they found the scent inherently positive, inherently negative, or if they were indifferent to it. Testers measured the length of time it took subjects to complete each of the six trials.
T-tests do not reveal a sigificant different between average speed of completion with and without the floral scent. The most important factor appears to be order. The average time on the second maze was shorter than the average time on the first maze for all but three subjects.
Another variable of interest is improvement. This can be expressed as the percentage change in speed of completion from the first trial to the third trial for each maze. A paired t-test shows gives a p-value of .051, providing weak evidence for a learning effect.