Lemon-scented ethics

Can that nice smell make you more ethical?

That’s the provocative suggestion of a recent study in the journal Psychological Science. A team of researchers found that when people were in a room recently spritzed with a citrus-scented cleanser, they behaved more fairly when playing a classic trust game. In another experiment, the smell of cleanser made subjects more likely to volunteer for a charity.

While Proctor and Gamble is unlikely to hire one to market its brands, philosophers have long discussed the phenomenal character of experience, largely focusing on sight and its non-reductive character. The famous thought experiment featuring "blind Mary," or our inability to correlate the thrill of seeing our significant other with a molecule-for-molecule brain state point to the special nature of experience and its unique contribution to knowing. As it turns out, scent, too, has a place in that literature.

"What it is to be like" under the influence of recently spritzed citrus-scented cleanser? Only you really know. And armed with a lemon zester, someone, somewhere has a plan.

Wayne