Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The scent of pronunciation work: what you don't know can help you!

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
Previous posts have looked at the potential impact of olfaction on pronunciation instruction. A new study by de Groot, Smeets, Kaldewaij, Duijndam, Semin of the University of Utrecht, summarized by Science Daily, looked at the role of scent in signalling emotion. One conclusion: "The findings provide support for the embodied social-communication model, suggesting that chemosignals act as a medium through which people can be 'emotionally synchronized' outside of conscious awareness." Basically, subjects reactions were recorded as they sniffed sweat collected earlier  from people in various states of stress. Not surprisingly, as we all know from lived experience, body odor communicates, often quite unambiguously.

So what? Apparently, if a student is stressed, fearful or threatened that can covertly contaminate the lesson with the same emotional unease. Is that important? Research on multiple modality learning would suggest that it certainly can be. Can that be mediated with "de-stressing" exercises and techniques? (Check with your local "Affective" colleague!) To some extent, yes, but a more practical solution at this point may be to just mask it.

Also as noted earlier, I have experimented with mixed success over the years with a number of room scents or hand creams. Some students, of course, know how to use chemo-signals, such as perfumes and pheromones, very effectively! This research reaffirms the concept that aspects of embodied social communication which function generally outside of conscious awareness such as body motion and scent . . . are certainly nothing to sneeze or sniff at . . .  

No comments:

Post a Comment