Confidence is a key to success in life and in business, helping to secure dates, jobs, and deals.
But can you rely on having it when you need it? There’s a fascinating piece of research that suggests you’ve got more control over the way others see you than you might think.
The small study, led by Craig Roberts at the University of Liverpool in the UK and published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science in 2009, was designed to see whether applying a scented deodorant would have any impact on men’s self-confidence and attractiveness.
Researchers recruited 35 male university students and gave about half an aerosol spray that included fragrance oil and an antimicrobial ingredient — so basically a deodorant that you’d buy at the drugstore. (The products were provided by Unilever.) The other half received an aerosol spray with no fragrance or antimicrobial ingredients.
Participants were instructed to use these sprays to substitute for their usual deodorant for 48 hours. They were also asked to fill out questionnaires at the beginning, middle, and end of the experiment that asked questions about their self-confidence and self-perceived attractiveness.
Results showed that the men who’d used the scented deodorant reported feeling more attractive and more self-confident than the men who’d used the non-deodorant. In fact, the deodorant group’s self-confidence increased just 15 minutes after they used the spray.
Meanwhile, the men in the non-deodorant group experienced a decrease in self-confidence and self-perceived attractiveness, possibly because they were starting to smell bad.
When the 48 hours were up, participants were instructed to film a short video of themselves in which they pretended to introduce themselves to an attractive woman. Researchers also took still photographs of all the participants.
Eight female raters were asked to look at the photos and videos (the videos were played on silent and with sound) and indicate how attractive and how confident they found each participant.
As it turns out, the men who’d used the deodorant spray seemed both more confident and more attractive than the men who’d used the non-deodorant spray — but only in the videos without sound. That’s in spite of the fact that the women obviously couldn’t smell the men through the camera.
The researchers concluded that it was the deodorant group’s increase in self-confidence that caused the women to see them as more attractive. That increase in self-confidence could have been a direct result of the men being pleased with how they smelled or a result of other people telling them how good they smelled.
Either way, these findings suggest that a small tweak to your olfactory presence can make a big difference in terms of how you feel about yourself and how you present yourself to others.
At the same time, be careful not to apply too much fragrance, as experts say it can be a turn-off to coworkers.
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