Alina Gagarina, Indre Pikturniene


Purpose. Recent two decades of consumer research shifted from the paradigm of classical rational consumer who is making decision in a clearly prescribed sequence using accountable indicators for the assessment of alternatives and decision towards the paradigm of consumer whose decisions are irrational and affected by a number of contextual factors. One field of studies of consumer irrationality deal with consumer heuristics (Kahneman and Tversky, 2000; Ariely, 2010), that is, mental shortcuts made on the basis of selectively collected and weighted information pieces to ease the decision. Another wide field of studies is ambient marketing (part of sensory marketing) that researches how various ambient scent related conditions might influence consumer emotions and behaviour (Olahut and Plaias, 2013). However, no attempts have been made to relate these two fields to test whether ambient scent changes heuristic related decision making and behaviour. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to identify the relationship of ambient scents’ type and intensiveness with decision making heuristics.

Methodology. Factorial 2x2 experimental design with control group was performed. Ambient scent type (vanilla vs. peppermint) and intensiveness (8 (1mg) vs. 16 sprays (2mg) of scent concentrate in the same room) were manipulated as between subject variables. Risk averse vs. risk seeking behavior, effect of anchoring heuristics and affect (risk and benefit) heuristics were tracked as dependent variables. Respondents were drawn from homogeneous students’ sample and randomly assigned to experimental and control groups.

Results. Evidence suggests that there are effect of ambient scent on decision making heuristics, thus fulfilling the missing gap to relate ambient environment to decision making heuristics. However, not all heuristics were affected by experimental conditions. Subjects were bidding significantly lower amounts under low anchor conditions, when vanilla scent was around (if compared to peppermint and control group). Affect risk was perceived as lower in peppermint ambient scent conditions, if compared to control group. Intensity of ambient scent also had influence on affect risk: subjects perceived less risks under high scent intensity conditions.

The theoretical contribution. Although there are a number of research on various heuristics effect on decision making, as well as a vast research in ambient scent effect field, the paper is among pioneering works that combine two types of non-cognitive factors on decision making, and test the results.

Practical implications. By manipulating environmental scenting conditions, marketers may reduce or increase consumers risk perception and as a consequence influence their purchase decisions. Marketers could use peppermint scent in high intensiveness in the situations where they want consumers to undertake higher risks (expensive purchases, gambling, insurance), since stakes were higher under peppermint condition.

Keywords: ambient scent type, ambient scent intensiveness, heuristics, risk averse-risk seeking, anchoring, affect.

Paper type: Research paper.


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