Sweet Scents Lure Clubbers onto the Dance Floor

Club dance
(Image credit: © Stephanie Swartz | Dreamstime.com)

It's not just Lady Gaga's latest track that can lure clubbers onto the dance floor. A new study finds that sweet fragrances can get dancers' feet moving, too.

Nightclubs aren't always the sweetest-smelling spots, with the scent of booze mixing with the smell of sweat from enthusiastic dancers. So Hendrik Schifferstein of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, who studies sensory experiences and marketing, and his colleagues decided to find out if a subtle scent could influence club-goers' experiences during a night out.

The researchers diffused three scents — orange, peppermint and seawater — in the air at three different dance clubs, observing the frequency of dancing by patrons and asking 849 of them to fill out surveys about their experiences. Clubbers who were out partying on nights when the researchers tested the scents were more positive about their experience at the club, enjoyed the music more, and danced more frequently than people who went to the clubs on unscented nights. [Read: The Surprising Impact of Taste and Smell]

The scent — whether relaxing orange, invigorating peppermint or neutral seawater —didn't matter, as long as there was a good smell in the air, the researchers reported online in May in the journal Chemosensory Perception. As silly as the results may seem, they could add up to big bucks for nightclub owners, Schifferstein wrote.

"Given that visitors gave a better evaluation for the clubs, felt more cheerful, and showed more dancing activity when scents were diffused, environmental fragrancing may be expected to have a positive effect on visitor return rate and future revenue for clubs," he wrote.

On the other hand, our bodies' natural scents can be of use, too. Research has shown that women can tell the difference between smell of sweat of aroused and non-aroused men, at least subconsciously. And men rate women's body odor smells as more attractive right before ovulation.

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Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.