The scent of lavender is known for its soothing properties, and for this reason is often recommended to people as a relaxation or sleep aid. But according to new research, the calming scent can also make us more trusting of others.
"Our results might have various serious implications for a broad range of situations in which interpersonal trust is an essential element," Leiden psychologist Roberta Sellaro said in a statement. "Smelling the aroma of lavender may help a seller to establish more easily a trusting negotiation to sell a car, or in a grocery store it may induce consumers to spend more money buying products. The smell of lavender may also be helpful in sport psychology to enhance trust and build team spirit, for example in the case of team games such as soccer and volleyball."
To investigate the flower's effect on trust, Leiden University researchers exposed one group of study participants to the scent of lavender and another group to peppermint. Then, the participants were asked to play a game that is commonly used in experimental settings to measure how much one subject trusts another. In the game, a "trustor" was given 5 Euros and instructed to decide how much of that money to give a "trustee" in each round. The trustee, in return, could decide to split the money with the trustor. If the trustee gave the trustor enough money in return, he or she would receive additional money.
After being exposed to lavender, participants gave significantly more money to the trustee (3.9 Euro) than those who had been exposed to peppermint (3.23 Euro). The findings "reinforce the idea that interpersonal trust is sensitive to situational and environmental factors," the researchers note.
Previous research on aromatherapy has found that lavender can affect mood and well-being. Lavender essential oil produces a mild calming and sedative affect, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, and has been used to ease anxiety, depression, insomnia and fatigue. One brain-scanning study by Wesleyan University researchers found that participants who sniffed lavender oil before going to bed slept more soundly through the night.
The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Check out the video to learn more about lavender's effects on mutual trust.