How to control emotion and influence behavior | Dawn Goldworm | TEDxEast


I can control your emotions
and influence your behavior without showing you anything,
without touching you, and without saying a single word to you. This power, most people,
they rarely think about it. In fact, most people are unaware that it is being used,
or that they themselves are using it. It is so powerful that new mothers use it when they want to acclimate
their baby outside of the womb. And even Hitler used it
to unite a crowd with one of his speeches. This power is the power of smell. When we are only 12 weeks
in our mother’s stomach, we have a fully developed sense of smell. After this first trimester we can actually smell
what our mother’s eating as odor is the only sense
that passes through the amniotic fluid. This is the beginning
of our taste preferences. And then once we are born,
our entire world is smell. It is our dominant and primary sense
until we are 10 years of age. Our only other sense,
if you can call it that, that’s as fully developed at this stage is emotion. And scent and emotion work together to help us to understand, comprehend,
and create our new worlds. Actually, when you smell an odor,
you automatically link an emotion to it. And the scent and emotion
remain forever linked together, floating around our olfactor memory, our smell memory, which is the largest
and most acute part of our memory. I call them scent emoticons, scent and emotion linked together forever. This is why some
of our most powerful memories are linked to smell. The smell of freshly cut grass, our Christmas tree, our grandmother’s house, an ex-lover, one whiff, and we are immediately transported
to another time, to another place. We remember the sights and the sounds. We can paint an entire picture
of where we were. We can even recall
with incredible precision how we felt in that moment, all with one smell. And this is what I love
about the sense of smell. No other sense can transport us
and make us feel that emotional connection like scent can. Many new mothers already know this, which is why they use a t-shirt or blanket
with their scent on it to soothe their new baby
when they need to separate from them. This allows a child to still feel safe
when the mother is no longer holding them. At this stage in life, we imagine
that touch is the most important. But a child, a newborn child, will allow its mother to stop holding them
if her smell is there. And the research on Hitler is amazing. He would have his people come in
hours before he was to give a talk, spray the entire arena with scent, so he could create the mood
even before he took the stage. And it’s not just mothers
and dictators who understand – (Laughter) how scent can influence behavior. The power of scent
completely transformed the way Procter & Gamble market laundry detergent. For years and years, the value proposition
for laundry detergent was get your whites whiter
and your brights brighter. because when people
were asked in focus groups what was important to them them, this is what they said. So various brands competed: one would use bleach;
one would use oxygen; another would use chloride. But then, in the 1980s, Procter & Gamble
decided to do some research. They hired a clever anthropologist to go into people’s homes
and watch them do their laundry. This is what they discovered: when people were done
washing their clothes, no one held it up to the sunlight
to see how bright it was, and no one compared it
to see how white it was. The first thing people did when they were
finished washing their laundry was hold it up to their nose and smell it. Because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t make as much of a difference
how clean our clothes look; it matters if they smell clean. But who cares? Unless you’re a mother,
a marketer, or a dictator, (Laughter) why does this matter in the world? I believe that scent is completely
underutilized in our lives. Scent has the potential to change
the way in which we see the world. Scent can make everything more enjoyable,
more emotional, more memorable. Think about when we want to go on a date. We look in the mirror,
we want to look nice, we put on makeup, we pick out our favorite dress,
maybe our favorite shirt, but few of us consider if our smell
will attract our future mate. If we go on an anniversary,
or we want to propose marriage, we buy a ring, maybe flowers, a gift, we set the stage, we dim the lights,
we put on some soft music. But do we ever consider if the smell of the room
elicits the response that we want? The lighting, the sound,
the flowers, the scent, should all work together to help us say, “I love you, I want
to dedicate my life to you.” Today scent is an obvious place,
where it matters in laundry detergent, but all companies should consider
the emotional impact they can have simply by adding a smell. A recent study done in a Nike store showed that when a brand-appropriate
scent was used, customers felt the overall
store experience was better, the services were elevated, the impact of which meant
customers spent more money. Now, when I talk to you about scent, I’m not talking to you about the smells that we’re used
to experiencing in our life, I’m not talking about the smell of lemons, or the smell of apple,
or the smell of vanilla; I’m talking about a highly
sophisticated instrument being used in a highly sophisticated way. For example, if I were
to give you a talk on painting, I would talk to you more than
just about primary colors. Children’s painting. What’s amazing here: all of the colors that were used
in that children’s painting are also used in this Monet. There are only three primary colors,
that’s all there are, but it’s how Monet mixes them together to evoke an entirely new scene
and create an entirely new emotion. The same goes for music. There’s only one scale of music,
there are only seven notes, but chopsticks sounds very, very different
to a Beethoven symphony. It’s not the number of notes
that Beethoven uses; it’s how he mixes them together. And scent works in exactly the same way. It’s not the primary colors
or simple ingredients or big notes, we can paint a Monet
or create a Beethoven symphony with smell. This is what fascinates me. This is what I have dedicated my life to: to finding all of the grand paintings and all of the master symphonies
that I can compose … for your nose. And here’s the best part: whether you like Picasso more than Monet
or whether you prefer Bach to Beethoven, the smells that you like or don’t like are not your own subjective opinion. They are rather almost entirely formed by your culture, your generation
and your living environment from the first 10 years of your life. The smells that you find
good, pleasant, pleasureful, or bad, unhealthy, even gross, you learned when you were a child. Your baby products, your suntan products, your floor cleaners,
your laundry detergent, your toys, your food, the list continues. What’s important about these products
is that they change region to region, culture to culture,
generation to generation. For example, Americans born
before the 1940s, associate the smell of wood
with their childhood because their toys were made from wood. Americans born just after the 1940s started to associate the smell of plastic
and Play-Doh and crayons with their childhood. It’s difficult for us to explain
why we like something and why we don’t. Our sense of smell
lives in the part of the brain called the limbic system, and the limbic system
has no capacity for language. So while we can describe
a smell in simple terms, we can say it’s fresh, it’s floral, maybe it’s too strong, we have a very difficult time
saying why we like it or we don’t. Even some of us, we can describe
a smell in great detail, like a wine expert or a professional nose, we still can’t tell you
why we like it or not. And although the limbic system
has no capacity for language, it is responsible for emotion. So while you can’t tell me
why you like something, you can tell me how it makes you feel. And how do you feel right now? Breathe in. There are smells around us at all times, everywhere. If we can control these smells,
we can actually use them as a tool. I want to create and use smells that make people feel better
when they’re sick, to make people feel happy
when they’re sad, to make people feel safe
when they’re displaced, to make people feel inspired
and connected and loved. We create all manner of things
in this world to make us look good, but smell is the most natural
and the most powerful way to make us feel good. Thank you. (Applause)

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