Adding odor: Less distress and enhanced attention for 6-month-olds

Caroline N. Coffield, Estelle M.Y. Mayhew, Jeannette M. Haviland-Jones, Arlene S. Walker-Andrews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The effect of odor on cognitive and emotional processes has been studied in adults and children, but less so in infants. In this study twenty-seven six-month-olds were presented with a video while in either an odor (pine or baby-powder) or a no odor control condition. The video was a 92-s audiovisual presentation of a woman expressing happiness and sadness, with the order of emotion counterbalanced. Infant attention (looking time) and emotional expression (smiling, crying, mouthing) were coded. Infants looked longer in the presence of odor and expressed less crying and mouthing but more smiling behavior. Presence of odor markedly reduced infant emotional distress and increased attention, suggesting that the olfactory sensory system provides cues to infants that support mood regulation and maintain attention. These results have implications for optimizing infant environments for emotional health and cognitive development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-161
Number of pages7
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


  • Emotion
  • Infant development
  • Olfaction
  • Visual attention


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