If you're ever tempted to buy an overpriced candle with an alluring moniker, keep in mind that even your nose is a sucker for packaging. A study in the journal Neuron shows that the very same scent smells better—and is processed differently in the brain—if it comes with a nice-sounding label than if it carries an unsavory descriptor.
Researchers gave subjects a cheeselike chemical odorant marked either "cheddar cheese," or "body odor." Those in the cheese group rated the experience as significantly more pleasant than did their peers who thought they were inhaling BO. And brain scans revealed that these labels affected how blood flowed to the subjects' olfactory processing areas.
The body's senses are not objective recording devices. Edmund Rolls, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford in England and lead researcher, says the study demonstrates how high-level cognition, such as reading, powerfully influences sensory perception.