Grigory Emmanuilovich
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Psychology of color and aroma
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Perculiarities of color and aroma associations of men and women

The goal of this research was to reveal the relationship between colors and smells in different gender groups. For this purpose 233 questionnaires has been analyzed, where respondents had to attribute different smells to primary colors of a spectrum – red, yellow, green and dark blue. The choice of smells was unlimited, respondents were allowed to choose any number of smells, associated with one color.

After primary analysis 213 questionnaires were selected where all questions were answered without changes and mistakes. The age of respondents varied from 16 to 58 years, the quantity of men and women, their age categories and the social status were approximately equal. All participants of the research were physically healthy and denied presence of mental disorders. Also at the time of research no one received any medications.

The biggest part of respondents noted the well-known smells which can be divided into following groups:

  • Fruit or berry smells – have noted 90 people (21.5 %);
  • Flower smells – 84 people (19.5 %);
  • Smells of grass and forest – 58 people (13.5 %);
  • Smell of the sea – 56 people (13.0 %);
  • Smell defined as "fresh" – 42 people (9.7 %);
  • Smell defined, as "sweet" (without a detailed definition) – 36 people (8.4 %);
  • "Confectionery" smells (basically spice, occasionally a smell of vanilla) – 22 people(5.0 %);
  • "Cosmetic" smells (basically under the name "perfume") – 18 people (4.5 %);
  • Aromas (more often – lavender) – 14 people (3.2 %);
  • A putrefactive smell – 8 people (1.8 %)

As respondents were allowed to associate with each color more than one smell, 213 people have named various smells 254 times.

It appeared that some colors steadily were associated with one smell and what is also indicative practically did not correlate with the others.

As a result we were able to range the smells and colors and to create «a color scale of smells» and to place smells on a color spectrum. With a high degree of reliability it was discovered that:

  • Red color more often was associated with spicy, fruit and sweet smells;
  • Yellow color - with fruit and flower smells;
  • Green color - with smells of grass and forest;
  • Dark blue - with smells of the sea and freshness.

It’s not a surprise and corresponds to all known theories about primary, typical perception of colors in the nature: red fire, yellow flowers, green forest, dark blue sea, etc.

At the same time there was almost NO association (less than 5 % of answers) of:

  • Red color with sea, forest and fresh smells;
  • Yellow color with forest, sea and putrefactive smells;
  • Green color with smells of perfume, aromas, and also spices;
  • Dark blue color with spices, sweet, fruit and putrefactive smells.

On a general scale of primary colors of a spectrum and seven most often mentioned smells looks as follows:

RedYellow Green Dark blue

Connections of color and smell differ a little in men and women:

  • Men in general defined the links of color and smell not as good as women, they had a lot of crossed out sections and mistakes in their questionnaires. From 20 questionnaires excluded from this research 14 were male and only 6 female.
  • Men more often associated red color with perfume and flower smells (42.9 % vs 28.4 % of women), and as the analysis has shown men connected this colour with excitement while women linked it to activity. Probably, it occurs because smells of men's perfume are sharper. It is interesting to investigate following hypothesis: if use of perfume by women is their unconscious influence on genetic predisposition of perception of these smells by men as red and exciting (i.e. archetypical) or on the contrary women have accustomed men to such perception during evolution consciously (i.e. culturally)?
  • Sweet smells more often were connected to red among women (23.8 % against 9.6 % of men) and yellow (19.5 % vs. 8.6 % men). It appeared, that respondents estimated emotional impact of a sweet smell differently. Both men, and women often connected it to excitement (25.0 % and 19.4 % accordingly) and happiness (10.4 % and 18.4 % accordingly). However for many women the sweet smell often associated with activity (23.5 %) and for men – with anger (14.6) and anxiety (10.4 %). Probably the reason of such distinction lies in physiology of colour and smell perception. Then another question arise: may be this is the explanation of the big love of women to sweets? In this case it is more clear, why men willingly present women with the pastries, ice-cream and other delicious sweets.

All this suggests that there are differences of perception of smells of men and women. It is strictly theoretical question: how this difference formed? Is it a result of development of men and women as different subspecies of a homo sapiens (i.e. historically and culturally) or it was always that way (i.e. genetic). If the second is true then the theory of Karl Gustav Jung and his followers about common archetypes of people of all times is not quite exact.

Grigory Breslav, Irina Proschai

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