Wheeling Jesuit University

Professorís Study Finds That Peppermint and Cinnamon Lower Frustration and Increase Alertness in Drivers

The scent of peppermint or cinnamon in your car might make your morning commute less frustrating and you more alert when behind the wheel. That's according to the results of a recent study led by Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, an associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV. According to the study, drivers demonstrated decreased levels of frustration, anxiety and fatigue when exposed to peppermint and cinnamon scents. The study also revealed that drivers were more alert.

The results of the study, Effects Of Odor Administration On Driving Performance, Safety, Alertness, And Fatigue, were presented at the recent Association for Chemical Reception Sciences Conference in Sarasota, FL.

The study builds on Raudenbush's past research, which indicated the odors of peppermint and cinnamon enhance motivation, performance, and alertness, decrease fatigue, and serve as central nervous system stimulants.

"Given these results, it is reasonable to expect that the presentation of peppermint or cinnamon odor while driving may produce a more alert and conscientious driver, and minimize the fatigue associated with prolonged driving," says Raudenbush.

In the present study, participants were monitored during stimulated driving under three odor conditions (peppermint, cinnamon, non-odor control). Odors were added to low flow oxygen (1.3L/min) via an oxygen concentrator and presented at the rate of 30 seconds every 15 minutes. Subjective measures of cognitive performance, wakefulness, mood, and workload were also assessed.

"In general, prolonged driving led to increased anger, fatigue, and physical demand, and decreased vigor. However, fatigue ratings were decreased in the cinnamon condition. Both cinnamon and peppermint administration led to increased ratings of alertness in comparison to the no-odor control condition over the course of the driving scenario. Periodic administration of these odors over long term driving may prove beneficial in maintaining alertness and decreasing highway accidents and fatalities," says Raudenbush.

Results Summary:

∑ Peppermint is associated with decreased anxiety while driving.

∑ Peppermint is associated with decreased fatigue while driving.

∑ Peppermint and cinnamon are associated with decreased driving frustration.

∑ Peppermint and cinnamon are associated with decreased temporal demand while driving.

∑ Peppermint and cinnamon are associated with greater levels of driving alertness.

This research was supported by grants from NSF and NASA.

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