Does odour priming influence snack choice? – An eye-tracking study to understand food choice processes

Paulina Morquecho-Campos, Ina M. Hellmich, Elske Zwart, Kees de Graaf, Sanne Boesveldt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Awareness of food sensory cues in our surroundings may influence our eating behaviour in different ways. For example, exposure to non-consciously perceived odours may influence food choice but not appetite. Moreover, this type of exposure may mainly influence the food choice of starters or desserts but not of main courses. This infers that odour priming may influence impulsive or rewarding food choice but may not overrule our habits concerning the choice of a main meal. It is crucial to understand the role of odour priming on eating behaviour and how people can be steered towards healthier options. Implicit measures, such as visual attention, may be central to understand the food choice process. Therefore, we aimed to determine how non-conscious exposure to odours affect congruent snack choice (i.e. with similar taste characteristics) and whether this is modulated by visual attention. A total of 53 healthy young adults took part in a cross-over study which consisted of two test sessions. In each test session, they were non-consciously exposed to an odour that is associated to a sweet or savoury food. Visual attention was investigated by means of a wearable eye-tracker and subsequent snack choice was (covertly) measured. Our results showed that congruent snacks were fixated on first. However, sweet snacks were fixated on more frequently, and for a longer period of time, and were chosen most often, irrespective of the type of odour exposure. Our findings indicate that odour priming might steer the initial orientation towards congruent foods, but other factors (e.g. cognitive) may overrule its effect on the final choice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105772
Early online date26 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Congruent selection
  • Decision-making
  • Eye movement
  • Inattentive exposure
  • Olfaction


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