Advertisement
  1. Education

Sights, sounds and smells affect cravings, USF professor confirms

Published Jul. 26, 2012

NORTH TAMPA — Feel like grocery shopping?

Well, are you sitting under bright lights? Are you listening to soft music? Is the smell of bacon wafting anywhere in the vicinity?

Believe it or not, those elements could factor into the choices you make. That's the conclusion from research by University of South Florida marketing professor Dipayan Biswas.

"It almost always happens at a subconscious level," Biswas said. "You know you like something, you don't know why. You just enjoy it."

Biswas has found that the tastes people are drawn to are affected by their other senses.

His findings follow studies of thousands of people's behaviors over about three years — through lab experiments and in experiments in food courts, cafeterias or restaurants.

While Biswas' research has been published in academic journals, it also has obvious implications on real-world food marketing — the sights and sounds and smells that entice us to buy, or not to buy, certain things.

For instance, people are attracted to more unhealthy choices when the lights are dim. A certain type of light music makes people want to buy or eat sweeter foods. If you're hungry and you smell food before you see it, you're more likely to buy it.

The smell of bacon is particularly enticing — and not just in buying food but in enticing men to buy traditionally manly things, like lawn mowers.

Sequence matters, too. If people sample two kinds of soda, they almost always say they prefer the last one they try, Biswas said. Eating something cold after eating something hot makes people overestimate the amount of calories in both.

"When you go to a grocery store, there are different ways they can manipulate you," Biswas said. "Where they control the ambience, they can manipulate the sensory inputs you are exposed to."

And that could have an impact on what you buy, he says.

Rich Thomas believes it.

Walking into Sweetbay Supermarket on Swann Avenue the other day, Thomas, 41, said he has no doubt that sights, sounds and smells affect what he buys.

"I mean, if you're comfortable, you want to stay longer, and you buy more," Thomas said.

That's especially true for him when store employees are cooking up samples. The aromas always make him hungry — even, said the vegetarian, when it's meat.

"I usually don't take the samples," he said, but that doesn't matter. The scent still seems to make him want to buy more.

Sama Knowles said colorful produce displays affect her the most. The bounties of food arranged so beautifully at Fresh Market remind her of her native France.

Knowles, 40, tries to combat impulse-buying with a detailed grocery list, but sometimes she can't help it. Especially, she says, when she's hungry.

Or when the bakery is taking hot croissants out of the oven.

"It's the smell, it's the sight, it's hunger," Knowles said. "I always go to that croissant."

Kim Wilmath can be reached at kwilmath@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3337.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    University police say a 25-year-old grad student enrolled at the University of Florida fell to her death Friday afternoon from near the top of the 8-story parking facility.
  2. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    The 63-year-old crossing guard was hospitalized, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
  3. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    University police say a woman fell to her death Friday afternoon from near the top of the 8-story parking facility.
  4. Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins, right, and  school board chair Tammy Shamburger speaks on newly raised concerns of a undiscovered cemetery for indigent African Americans that may be within the vicinity of King High School in Tampa on Friday. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Much is unclear at this point, say Hillsborough school officials, who promise to be open and transparent with the community,
  5. The University of South Florida revealed a new plan for the school's consolidation Thursday morning. Unlike the first plan presented in September, it promises a high level of authority to leaders on campuses in St. Petersburg, shown here, and Sarasota. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
    Legislators who were critical of the original plan say a new approach revealed Thursday is more in line with their expectations.
  6. Florida K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva presents the state's second draft of academic standards revisions during an Oct. 17, 2017, session at Jefferson High School in Tampa. Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the effort in an executive order to remove the Common Core from Florida schools. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times staff
    ‘Our third draft will look different from our second,’ the chancellor explains.
  7. Meaghan Leto, (center facing street), a speech therapist from Twin Lakes Elementary, protests over pay with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association outside of a School Board meeting.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  8. Yogi Goswami
    The Molekule Air Mini is a scaled-down version of its original purifier.
  9. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer
    As expected, the union rejected the district’s plan to add work for middle and high school teachers in exchange for more money.
  10. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2018) Hernando County School District office, 919 N Broad St., Brooksville
    Hernando County debates the pros and cons of superintendent John Stratton’s recommendation.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement