Aromatherapy is said to work wonders on body, mind and soul. By utilizing essential oils extracted from herbs, flowers, and fruits this form of therapy claims to carry many benefits and are growing in popularity. But is this true? Can scents really persuade a person? To answer these questions I conducted an experiment with college students at the University of Iowa to find out if one s olfaction sense really does play a larger role than expected. To do so, I set up an experiment utilizing the scent of peppermint that claims to have effects on an individual s alertness. My experiment consisted of 100 University of Iowa Students whom were randomly selected. I randomly chose the students by going to a variety of lecture halls in order to accumulate a diverse group of students with different education backgrounds in order to assure I didn t bias my experiment by testing only one type of student (i.e. business, chemistry, theater, communication). They were instructed to arrive at McBride Hall where the experiment would take place. Before the students arrived at McBride Hall I placed pieces of paper on the seats that had a small amount of solid oil on them. Half of the oils were peppermint scented and the other half had no scent at all, they were dispersed randomly on the seats. This would act as my independent variable. I instructed them to not speak to others near them and to wipe a small amount of the oil under their nose. Next, I played an informational film on Spelunking. I chose Spelunking because it is not a popular topic and would most likely be new information for the majority of the students. After the film, I instructed the students to reach under their seats where a short quiz was prepared for them, on the film they just watched, and asked them to fill it out to the best of their ability. I had discretely marked the quizzes with a red dot in the corners of the quizzes of that student were given peppermint oil so that I would be able to differentiate the quizzes when I collected them. As they finished, I collected the quizzes, thanked them for participating and dismissed them. Now it was time for me to grade the quizzes to see if the peppermint oil had any effect on their alertness through the film. The grades would be my dependent variable in this experiment. I would measure the grades by noting the number of questions correct. I had hypothesized that there would be no difference in the quiz grades between those students who had the peppermint oil and those who were given the unscented oil. This is the data I collected: According to this data my hypothesis, that there would be no difference in the quiz grades between those students who had the peppermint oil and those who were given the unscented oil, was incorrect. The data I collected clearly disproves my prediction. The majority of the high scores were attained by those with the peppermint stimulation whereas the majority of the low scores were attained by those students who were not stimulated. There were a total of 18 students who answered 15 out of 15 of the questions correct. 88% of those students were stimulated by the peppermint oil. On the other hand, 88% of the students who received 8 out of 15 of the questions correct were not stimulated by the peppermint oil. This data and statistics makes it apparent and allows me to conclude that the peppermint oil does in fact stimulate the alertness of a person.
After conducting this experiment I found myself asking more questions about the truth behind aromatherapy, specifically the effects of peppermint oil. I wanted to find out if peppermint oil was the only factor that caused that group to have higher quiz scores. I set up a correlational study to determine whether or not gender played a role in the outcome of my data. It was possible that gender played a role in the effects of aromatherapy and if there was an unequal amount of male and female subjects in each group which could have effected the data. The correalational version of my study began the same way as my first, by rounding up 100 random University of Iowa students. This time I separated the 100 students into 4 groups: Group #1- females w/o peppermint oil; Group #2- females w/ peppermint oil, Group #3- males w/o peppermint oil; Group #4- males with peppermint oil. I hypothesized that the females would be more stimulated by the peppermint oil more than the males and therefore get better scores on the quiz. After conducting the experiment in the same way as before I graded the quizzes and rounded up my data. I found that all around both genders did better on the quiz if they had peppermint oil stimulation, yet the female s high scores were higher than the male s high score, thus proving my hypothesis that females are more effected by the smell. From this correlational version of my study I was able to causally conclude that females must have more sensitive olfactory nerves, allowing them to be more stimulated by the effects of the peppermint oil. Yet this causal conclusion would need to be further researched before considered a fact because an extraneous variable could be causing the women to have better quiz scores. An extraneous variable such as test skills. It is possible that the reason why the females acceled over the males is because they are in general better test takers. Which would mean that although the peppermint oil did increase alertness and cause better test scores; the effects of aromatherapy has no greater effect on one gender compared to the other. In conclusion, my experiment was a success. I clearly proved in my first experiment that aromatherapy is true, specifically the effects of the scent of peppermint on alertness. Furthermore, from this experiment I found more questions being asked in my head that lead me to a correlational study involving the effects of aromatherapy on males and females. Yet I cannot conclude anything solid from this study because of extraneous variables that might have skewed my data, it just leaves room for more experimenting to take place to find out more answers!