April 27, 2013

How stores trick our senses to make us buy more (Part 4 of 5: Smell)

(Read the previous posts in this series: tastesight, and touch).

Grocery shopping is a real chore (at least, in my mind).

It takes planning, list-making, and coupon clipping. One spends an hour ambling up and down twenty aisles, eventually shelling out a hundred dollars or so. Then there are heavy bags to carry into the house, in pairs—and then these items have to be put away. Phew.

For many, this is a weekly, repetitive torture. But for me, there is one upside. Regardless of whether I'm in the meat department, perusing the dairy, or contemplating my pickle options, I can smell it: the enticing aroma of the bakery, pumped sneakily through the air conditioning system. More often than not, I'll check out with a cookie or two (or twenty).

Not only is the ability to smell one of humans' most primitive senses, but it is also closely tied to memory and emotion. How do stores take advantage of our sense of smell to tempt us to buy more than we bargained for?

April 19, 2013

Fool yourself out of your fear of public speaking

Hey, braniacs!

Once again, I'm over at NBC's The Body Odd blog today. This time, I'm covering a cool new study about how understanding our bodies' stress responses can actually reduce the response itself. In this case, researchers focused on the fear of public speaking, something that is estimated to affect 75% of us.

Check it out here!

April 17, 2013

How stores trick our senses to make us buy more (Part 3 of 5: Touch)

(Read the previous posts in this series: taste and sight.)

There are few things more satisfying than running your hand over a rack full of cashmere sweaters, right?

My dad teases my mom and I when we're out shopping, asking why we must touch and comment on every garment's texture within arm's reach.

I mean, it just feels good. And many a Christmas has passed where my mom has received an especially fluffy sweater from yours truly, her partner in petting.

Sure, a company can do its job to create an attractive, pleasurable product for us consumers. But—you guessed it—the store does its own part in tricking us, ensuring that the phrase "you touch it, you buy it" often holds true.

April 10, 2013

Why do we sigh?

I sigh. A lot.

And, I realize, it's only when I feel discontent.

I sigh when I'm frustrated by statistics and can't make sense of the code on my computer screen. When I sit in class for three hours and daydream of all the productive things I could be doing. When I'm confused by the competing research literature on the desk in front of me. When I'm disgruntled by somebody's ignorant comments.

But why do I do it? Does it help regulate my breathing when I'm stressed? Is it a subconscious action I do to express to those around me that I'm anxious or upset? Perhaps a mental reset button, so to speak?

In fact, it may be a combination of all three.

April 2, 2013

Why we hate the sound of our own voice

Why don't we recognize our own voices when we hear a recording?

Most importantly, why don't we like what we hear?

I'm over at's The Body Odd blog today explaining why.

Check it out here!