Coffee's Odor Alone Can Boost Scores on Math Tests

Here’s a useful bit of science to get your day started.

By Ethan L. Johns
July 18, 2018

Image: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Woefully underprepared for an upcoming exam? Coffee could be your best salvation. The most interesting bit? You don’t even have to drink it.

In a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, researchers have discovered that the simple scent of a warm cup of coffee can bolster performance on a math test, revealing potential opportunities for odor-based brain food.

In the study, participants took an exam resembling the GMAT (the Graduate Management Aptitude Test—an algebra test required for acceptance into many graduate business schools) while having an odor reminiscent of a hot cup of joe pumped into the room.

Participants who took the test while inhaling the coffee scent scored significantly higher than the control group, which took the test in an neutrally perfumed room.

"It's not just that the coffee-like scent helped people perform better on analytical tasks, which was already interesting," said Adriana Madzharov, lead researcher on the study, according to ScienceDaily. "But they also thought they would do better, and we demonstrated that this expectation was at least partly responsible for their improved performance."

Of course, coffee won’t actually save your butt if you haven’t studied at all; if it could, trust us, we would know by now.

So wake up and smell the coffee. And then keep smelling it.


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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns