The emotional air in your space: Scrubbed, wild or cultivated?

Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Judith A. Hudson, Patricia Wilson, Robin Freyberg, Terry R. McGuire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The space around or in our buildings is not empty but is full of air. This air naturally contains some potential toxins but also useful biochemicals that we are not aware of; t however, our olfactory system has evolved to detect some of them subliminally. Conscious preferences for or against types of air may be insufficient for decisions about the desirability of natural, green air. It is a 21st challenge to " green technology" to extend and incorporate behavioral science approaches to understanding influential subliminal processes. We argue that these decisions require an experimental approach because the olfactory system is not easily accessible to conscious analysis. The subliminal effects of " something in the air" are illustrated first in a case study to show the surprising range of emotional effects from natural human mood odors. Then in a controlled study we show some similar subliminal effects from natural plant odors. Here " wild" local air is contrasted with two types of " cultivated" air, either with undetected (a) flower ingredients or (b) perfume ingredients. The subliminal effect of the floral additive led to more positive emotional thought and supported social approach behavior. This implies air management has the potential to provide an invisible support system inside and around buildings just as carefully designed and maintained parks provide a larger support to communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-99
Number of pages9
JournalEmotion, Space and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Social Psychology


  • Autobiographical memory
  • Biophilia
  • Co-evolution
  • Green architecture
  • Mood odors
  • Olfaction
  • Positive emotion


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