Multisensory Experiences & the Moderating Effect of Congruence

Sanna Isabella Haaramäki & Henrik Balling Nævdal

Student thesis: Master thesis


As humans use sensory information like any other information, researching the effects of sensations on our perception and resulting behaviour has become more prominent. The knowledge in the field of sensory research has advanced in recent years and there currently exists an understanding that the senses, and therefore sensory cues, work not in isolation but in interaction with one another. Therefore, it is of importance to study the multisensory interactions further, and that is where the contribution of our thesis also lies. We have researched an unexplored multisensory combination of senses, namely vision and olfaction through posing the following research question: How does olfactory stimulus (visual stimulus) affect the perception of a visual stimulus (olfactory stimulus), and how does the perceived congruence between the stimuli moderate the relationship? A quantitative approach was taken to answer the research question. We designed and conducted a between-subject experiment on university grounds, with 60 participants equally distributed into two experimental groups and two control groups. We find that a visual stimulus can negatively affect the perception of olfactory stimulus if the relationship is incongruent. If the relationship is congruent, the visual stimulus had no effect on the perception of the olfactory stimulus. Further, an olfactory stimulus was found to positively affect the perception of a visual stimulus, and that the effect is stronger if the relationship is congruent. The positive effects one sensory stimulus can have on another is in line with previous research on the field, yet probably most surprising finding is the negative effect the visual stimulus can have on the perception of the olfactory stimulus. On a broader scale, the findings presented in this paper demonstrate the importance of understanding human perception of sensory inputs, and more specifically the interaction between the senses and the resulting effects on the evaluative responses. This paper contributes directly to the field of sensory marketing and indirectly to the academic disciplines such as psychology, marketing and consumer behaviour, that also conduct research under the umbrella of sensory marketing. As sensory research can contribute to various research fields, the objective of this thesis was not to solely to find new, best practises for marketing, but to conduct research for the purpose of knowledge.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages88
SupervisorsAlexander Josiassen