The signal function of thematically (In)congruent ambient scents in a retail environment

H.N.J. Schifferstein, S.T. Blok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


An odor emitted by an object signals the presence of that object and may draw attention to it. Can odors that are not actually emitted by an object also function as a signal? We investigated whether the degree of thematic congruency between an ambient odor and a magazine affected magazine sales in a retail store. We selected two odors: a grass odor, congruent with soccer, animal/nature and gardening magazines; and a sunflower odor, congruent with personal care and women's magazines. In a field study in three bookstores, the ambient odors did not increase sales for thematically congruent magazines, nor did they decrease sales for incongruent magazines. Several explanations for these unexpected findings are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-549
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • context-dependent memory
  • odor-evoked memories
  • implicit memory
  • cues
  • identification
  • experiences
  • behavior
  • distinctiveness
  • performance
  • congruency


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