The Power of Smell

2 min readJul 11, 2018

How casinos manipulate our noses to encourage us to gamble more.

Our behaviour can be subtly influenced by appealing to our senses.

Dr. Alan Hirsch describes himself as the “Jacques Cousteau of noses” and has built a fine reputation off the back of his ability to use smell to change people’s minds.

As you are aware, along with sight, sound, taste and touch, smell makes up on of our five senses.

We use them constantly to navigate the world around us. However, we are often blissfully unaware that they are being exploited to influence our behaviour.

This is known assensory priming’.

In 1992, Dr. Hirsch conducted a famous experiment in a Las Vegas casino over a weekend.

He discovered that gamblers would put as much as 45% more cash into a slot machine when the room was doused in a pleasant scent as opposed to a less pleasant smell or no smell at all. Moreover, the effects were greatest on Saturday morning when the scents were at their strongest.

Basically, the stronger the smell, the greater the gambling.

Hirsch believes that the pleasant smell was linked to memories, inducing ‘nostalgic recall’ and creating positive emotions and a stronger ‘gambling mood’.

The ‘Doctor of Smell’ has carried out many other studies into the power of smell.

Two years prior to the Vegas experiment, he asked 31 shoppers to inspect Nike shoes in two identical-looking rooms. One room was filled with purified air, the other with a floral scent.

When asked, 84% of the subjects said they were more inclined to buy the shoes in the scented room.

So when you next find yourself in a retail environment take a moment to observe if any of your five senses are being manipulated to encourage you to part with more of your cash!




Learn about life the universe and everything from a bunch of people at a fun edtech company.