Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Theses & dissertations (College of Business)

First Advisor

Samantha N. Cross

Second Advisor

Terry L. Childers


The focus of this dissertation is to understand the role of olfaction (sense of smell) in consumer behavior. The close relationship between olfaction and emotions is the center of this dissertation, examining not only the impact of odors or olfactory imagery induced emotions, but also the downstream influences on consumer decision making and judgment. Another important focus of study is to explore how individual differences in olfaction, specifically hyperosmics (or so called sensitives) and normal, respond similarly or differently to odors. A series of four experiments, including a combination of event-related potential (ERP) studies and behavioral studies, were executed to address these research questions.

Both expected and unexpected results were uncovered in this dissertation. As expected, there was a negativity bias for both olfactory groups, as stronger emotions, reflected in stronger Late Positive Potential (LPP) were detected during unpleasant odor conditions compared to pleasant. Additionally, olfactory imagery enhanced emotions for normal individuals through pleasant odor- associated pictures. Also, for sensitive individuals, unpleasant odors have a stronger influence on behavioral outcomes resulting in more severe moral judgment, negative personal evaluations. Unexpectedly, pleasant odors appear to have a negative impact on sensitive individuals, as more health-related symptoms were reported. Furthermore, emotions during olfactory imagery of pleasant odor associated pictures or ads were attenuated. Also, both pleasant and unpleasant odor conditions resulted in increased probability of healthy food choice. Possible explanations and implications are discussed. Call for future research to provide further clarity is outlined.

Finally, the role of olfactory imagery was investigated along with sniffing motions. Explained by embodied cognition, sniffing motions resulted in increased emotions, even for sensitive individuals in this case. The effect of sniffing enhanced emotions further impacted advertised product ratings and likelihood to buy ratings for sensitive but not normal individuals. In the end of the dissertation, theoretical and marketing implementations, future research are discussed.


Copyright Owner

Meng-Hsien Lin



File Format


File Size

158 pages