What can consumer research tell us about why people wear perfume?

Date of publication: June 15, 1993

Author: Hugh Bain

Abstract:

Despite our inadequate understanding of the physiologial and psychological mechanisms involved in odor perception, the efforts of many researchers interested in these issues is beginning to throw more light on the variety of reasons why people wear perfume. There is an increasing consensus that adults responses to odors are to a large extent learned, rather than innate or 'hard wired'. In addition to biologically determined drives, therefore, we also need to recognize the importance of cultural and social influences on motivations for perfume use, bearing in mind the wide variety of socio- psychological factors which undoubtedly influence human behaviour. While we need to acknowledge the central importance of emotional factors in human responses to odors, we also need to appreciate the role played by cognitive processes in mediating these responses, particularly with respect to the increasingly widespread use and appreciation of man-made perfumes. When the motivation for using perfume is directed at fostering intimate interpersonal relationships, of whatever duration, people's motives for wearing perfume are undoubtedly primarily sexually determined. However, when the motivation for using perfume has a primarily personal or social dimension, people choose to wear perfume for reasons which can often be incidental to the sexual arena.

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