Science Project:

Aromatherapy: Does Scent Affect Mood?

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Materials:

  • Frankincense oil
  • Orange oil
  • Thirty cotton balls
  • Two zip-lock sandwich bags
  • Paper and pencil or pen
  • Poster board, glue

Note: The oils may be purchased inexpensively at iherb.com and also can be found at many health food stores. Other products are readily available at variety, drug, or grocery stores.

Preparation and Materials:

  1. Create the ‘Feeling’ Likert scale template: On an 8-1/2” x 11” piece of paper, draw fifteen 7” long horizontal lines, one below the other, leaving space to write between each line. Create cross-hatches at each inch mark (on each line), and number the cross-hatches one to seven. Below each numbered line write one of the following words: Angry, disappointed, happy, jealous, surprised, sad, proud, fearful, content, envious, satisfied, ashamed, guilty, exhilarated, remorseful. At the top of the page write: "Below is a list of feeling states. Consider each state and indicate on the line the degree to which you feel that way right now, with 'O' meaning ‘Not at all’ and '7' meaning ‘Very strongly’, by placing an “X” at the appropriate place on the line."
  2. Make at least 62 copies of the template. On 15 of them, write “orange” on the top of the page; on another 15, write “frankincense” at the top of the page. Set aside the remaining copies with nothing at the top.
  3. Place a few drops of orange on 15 cotton balls and place them in a baggie; likewise, place a few drops of frankincense on 15 cotton balls and place them in another baggie.
  4. Try to gather, if you can, 30 participants, and divide them into two groups. (Ask a teacher if your classmates can participate.)

Experimental Procedure

  1. Have each participant complete the ‘Feeling’ Likert scale. After they are finished, they should turn it upside down on the desktop and not look at it again.
  2. Provide the participant with the appropriate scent-soaked cotton ball. Have them hold it 1” below their nostrils and breathe in the scent for 15-30 seconds.
  3. As the participant continues to hold the cottonball under their nose, he or she should complete a second Likert scale.
  4. When the participant is done with their second Likert scale, staple their two scales together.
  5. Instruct the subject to wash his/her hands, and wash your own hands.
  6. For each pair of Likert scales, calculate the change in the ‘sad’ scale from the first (without scent) scale to the second (with scent). Add up the changes for all ‘orange’ condition subjects and divide by the number of subjects in that condition to find the average change in reported sadness; do the same for the ‘frankincense’ condition subjects.
  7. Create a bar graph in which the average change in reported sadness for each of the two groups is compared, being sure to label the bars and the graph itself appropriately.

Terms/Concepts: What is the difference between a ‘mood’ and an ‘emotion’?; What are essential oils?; What is ‘aromatherapy’?; How do moods and emotions influence our behavior?; What is a ‘Likert scale’?

References:

Author: Peggy LaCerra, Ph.D.
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