If you find you’re doing more favours during the holiday season, it might not be because you’re blissed out on good will. Rather, it may be because you’re inhaling the aroma of all those freshly baked Christmas cookies.
That’s what’s suggested by a new study at the University of Southern Brittany, France. When a young man or woman stood outside a store and accidentally-on-purpose dropped something while pretending to dig through their shopping bags, passersby were more likely to help if they got a whiff of fresh pastries. The proof is in the pudding: Outside a clothing store, a stranger stopped to pick up the dropped item about half the time. But outside a bakery, over three-quarters of the passersby lent a hand.
Were they lulled into benevolence by the smell of bread? Were they hoping for a pastry reward? Researchers believe that any pleasant scent, not just the aromas of baking, will trigger kinder behaviour. (Is that why my neighbour likes to cut my grass for me? Because we all love the smell of the fresh mow? Mystery solved.)