Close up photo of lavender flower
New research from the Netherlands shows that lavender aroma can promote interpersonal trust

Lavender aroma promotes a feeling of trust

14 January, 2015

If you want to increase trust between yourself and another, aromatherapy may hold the key.

In a small study researchers from  Leiden University, in the Netherlands found that individuals gave significantly more money to  another person in a test environment when they were exposed to the aroma of lavender.

According to the scientists this is the first such study to investigate whether the calming olfactory fragrance of lavender has a positive effect on mutual trust.

Aromatherapists already known that aromatic compounds can alter one’s mood, cognitive, psychological, or physical wellbeing. “Mutual trust is the social glue of society”, says lead researchers Roberta Sellaro. “Interpersonal trust is an essential element for social co-operation bargaining and negotiation.”

Sellaro and colleagues work appears in the journals Frontiers in Psychology.

Boosting trust naturally

To determine the effect of fragrances, the researchers exposed one group of test persons to the aroma of lavender, while a second group to the aroma of peppermint. Subsequently, the test persons played a trust game, a task that is often used to measure how much one test person trusts the other.

A trustor was given 5 Euros and was free to decide how much of that money he would give to a trustee in each round of the game. The trustor would then receive extra money, but only if the trustee gave him enough money in return. The money transferred to the trustee by the trustor served as an indicator of mutual trust.

Test persons gave significantly more money to the other person when they were exposed to the aroma of lavender, compared to persons who had been exposed to the fragrance of peppermint.

The results might have various implications (both positive and negative!) for a broad range of situations in which interpersonal trust is an essential element.

“Smelling the aroma of lavender may help a seller to establish more easily a trusting negotiation to sell a car, or in a grocery store it may induce consumers to spend more money buying products” says Sellaro “The smell of lavender may also be helpful in sport psychology to enhance trust and build team spirit, for example in the case of team games such as soccer and volleyball.”