Ethics enhanced by clean smells

I wonder if this is something businesses (including accounting firms) might want to look into: A study at Brigham Young University has found that people are “uncon­sciously fairer and more generous” in clean-smelling environments.

The research found a dramatic improvement in ethical behavior with just a few spritzes of citrus-scented Windex.

The researchers see impli­ca­tions for workplaces, retail stores and other organi­za­tions that have relied on tradi­tional surveil­lance and security measures to enforce rules.

Companies often employ heavy-handed inter­ven­tions to regulate conduct, but they can be costly or oppressive,” said [Katie Liljen­quist, assistant professor of organi­za­tional leadership at BYU’s Marriott School of Management], whose office smells quite average. “This is a very simple, unobtrusive way to promote ethical behavior.”

I wonder if the persis­tence of a citrus smell at a business would affect the assessment of audit risk for that business? Maybe a cost-effective way to justify reduced audit testing? I can see it now: “Well, the assessment says we test a sample of 25, but does anyone else smell lemons?”

The study is at this point still “soon to be published,” but the article at BYU’s website details the tests performed to support the conclusions.

4 thoughts on “Ethics enhanced by clean smells”

  1. I think there is truth in this post. If you smell good, your brain reacts positively and you feel good, and then you can think clearly and wisely. Thus, your reactions to situa­tions are more reasonable.

  2. I was at a conference yesterday and met a guy who does smell research. The guy’s name was Dr. Alan R. Hirsch. He found that some smells can increase/decrease the feeling of time. Cool stuff.

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