The Psychology of Fragrance


A preview of the IFRA Fragrance Forum 2013

IFRA United Kingdom, the fragrance association, is holding its third industry Fragrance Forum on 17 October 2013 at The Royal Society in London.

The all-day event, whose main sponsor is fragrance house Seven Scent, is on the theme ‘The Psychology of Fragrance’. It will provide an opportunity to meet those from the fragrance industry including perfumers, scientists, customers and academics as well as senior personnel from other trade associations.

IFRA UK’s Director, Lisa Hipgrave, said: “IFRA UK is proud to be returning to The Royal Society’s London headquarters. The Society is a Fellowship of the world’s most eminent scientists and the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. Only organisations that, like IFRA UK, are science based can hold events here.”

The purpose of the Fragrance Forum is to develop a better understanding of the important role fragrance plays in our lives, bringing together around 100 perfumers, scientists from academia and industry, marketers, trade body representatives and others for whom fragrance is important. The Forum this year will explore how fragrance affects our minds, our moods, our memories and our well-being.

Our sense of smell enables fragrances to affect us so directly, so memorably and so fundamentally; and yet there is still so much more to understand about the way that olfaction works and the way in which fragrance technology is applied to the myriad of everyday products we use – whether in fine fragrances, personal care, everyday household products or other market sectors.

The day's play

The panel of speakers will explore the psychology of fragrance and how our greater knowledge of olfaction is leading to yet greater strides in fragrance use and application.

The Fragrance Forum is divided into three segments:

Session 1: 'Fragrance – the invisible difference' with Lisa Hipgrave chairing Dr Craig Roberts from Stirling University whose topic is 'Body odour in biological perspective' and marketer, Debbie Brunt of PZ Cussons who will explore marketing issues in a presentation entitled ‘Understanding consumers: stepping into their shoes’.

Session 2: 'Product development and the battle of the senses' will be chaired by Stephen Weller, Director of Communications for IFRA global introducing Dr Anne Churchill, Head of Global Sensory at Givaudan Fragrance Division who will speak on the ‘The Multi-Sensory Approach to Product Design’ and Professor Francis McGlone from the School of Natural Sciences & Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University and Visiting Professor at the University of Liverpool. His intriguing topic is entitled: ‘Your brain knows more than your mind’.

Session 3: 'Synchronisation of sensory signals', will be chaired by IFRA UK’s Acting Chairman, Jonathan Gray (MD of MANE UK). Speakers are Professor Charles Spence, Head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory based at the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University speaking on the topic of ‘From perception to design’ and Peter Noorkoiv, Director of advertising and marketing agency, Craftwork Marketing whose presentation  title is ‘Two drams and a dab: a fusion of scent and brand’.

A preview

Professor McGlone will be asking “The brain knows what the nose knows, but does the mind?” and he will go on to show how he believes that olfaction is the most important of our five senses. He says:  “Although the human sense of smell has declined in comparison to other mammalians species over evolutionary history, it is clear that our behaviour can still be powerfully influenced by odours and fragrances, often without conscious awareness.

He adds that the latest research is now showing that the senses play an important  role in providing affective information to the brain about the stimulus, that is, how much do I like/dislike something?  He says;”Here we can rank the senses in terms of their affective (emotional) power, and now olfaction is No 1 and Vision No 5.”  His presentation will discuss the emotional properties of the sense of smell and show some examples of cross-modal interactions between the senses of vision and touch – no one sense dominates perception.

Dr Craig Roberts’ presentation also promises to be fascinating as it will demonstrate how perfume and body odour affect our choice of sexual partner, as our natural smell interacts with the perfume we wear.

“Odour is critical in co-ordinating a variety of behaviours in animals but we tend to think that information in human odour doesn’t really affect  human behaviour”.  Nothing could be further from the truth according to Dr Craig Roberts. He says: “Human body odour contains information which enables us to recognise other individuals and may be used in choosing our sexual partners.  Regarding body odour in this biological perspective has direct implications for the use of fragrances. What we found is that when someone’s body odour is combined with their preferred fragrance, the resulting blend is more pleasant to other people than the same odour combined with an arbitrarily chosen fragrance. This suggests that choice of a fragrance is influenced not only by the properties of the fragrance itself, but also by how it will interact with that person’s underlying odour. One implication is that fragrances might not simply mask body odour, but rather complement it, or even enhance the information contained within it. Another is that this interaction could be key to understanding how consumers choose perfumes.”

Another eminent speaker, Dr Anne Churchill, Head of Global Sensory at Givaudan’s Fragrance Division, will recommend a multi-sensory approach to product design. She says: “Consumers make choices in their lives using all five of their senses. When buying or using products all of the senses work together to provide an overall experience that determines how consumers feel and the decisions that they make. In spite of this there is a tendency for product developers to consider elements of a product in isolation or place emphasis on the functional performance. This may be to their detriment, as there is evidence that the consumer experience is richer and more engaging if a product stimulates several of the senses so long as those stimuli are coherent. There is also empirical evidence that stimulation of one sense can modulate perception in another to the extent that true perception can be deceived”.

Her presentation will highlight evidence from the scientific literature that illustrates these phenomena and emphasise the importance of taking a multi-sensory approach to product design.

The Annual General Meeting of the Association will also take place on the same day when a new chairman and vice chairman will be voted in. The Acting Chairman is Jonathan Gray and the Acting Vice Chairman is Stephanie Topps.

In addition to the main sponsor of the event, fragrance house Seven Scent, other sponsors are: Givaudan for sponsoring the wines; Cosmetics Business magazines SPC and ECM for copies of the publications; Symrise and IFF for providing the delegate bags P&G and Pell Wall Perfumes for delegate gifts; CPL Aromas for sponsoring the production of video footage  and the programme; and IFRA – the global association -  for its support. In addition, ICATS, the International Centre for Aroma Trades Studies, will be exhibiting at the event and explaining their study programme.

Please contact IFRA UK’s Executive Secretary, Julie Young by emailing: for more information.

Sign up for your free email newsletter

Jo Jacobius is Communications Consultant for IFRA UK

Featured Companies

See also