"Ambient scent can be a powerful tool to resist cravings for indulgent foods," said lead author Dipayan Biswas, PhD, a marketing professor at the University of South Florida College of Business.
"In fact, subtle sensory stimuli like scents can be more effective in influencing children's and adults' food choices than restrictive policies," added Biswas.
He discovered a direct connection between the length of exposure time and whether or not one will indulge. He conducted a series of tests using an inconspicuous nebuliser, that separately gave off the scent of healthy and unhealthy food items. (cookies vs. strawberries, pizza vs. apples)
He found participants exposed to the smell of cookies for less than 30-seconds were more likely to want a cookie. But those exposed for longer than two minutes didn't find that cookie desirable and picked strawberries instead. He had the same results when the scent of pizza and apples were tested.
Since non-indulgent foods don't give off much of an ambient scent, they're typically not connected with reward; therefore have little influence on what we order.