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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 December, 2003, 10:25 GMT
The spirit of Christmas revealed
A Christmas pudding
But what about the smell of the traditional Christmas pudding?
The true spirit of Christmas boils down to three key ingredients, researchers claim.

The combination of candles, carols and the smell of cinnamon have been found to evoke the Christmas feeling.

But Christmas trees and puddings are not essential to get into the seasonal mood, according to the researchers.

Their tests, conducted under scientific conditions, involved volunteers being exposed to a selection of seasonal sights, sounds and smells.

For each combination, the 30 women participants were asked to give a score out of 10 for how "Christmassy" they felt.

Candles, carols and cinnamon came top with a rating of 7.3, followed by candles, carols and orange with a score of 6.2.

None of the sensations were thought of as very Christmassy on their own, but in combination it was a different story
Professor Michael Brammer
The least evocative combination was candles, classical music and the smell of pine, which scored 2.95.

The results were then exposed to the "mince pie test".

Volunteers were put in separate rooms containing plates of mince pies and asked to help themselves.

One room contained candles, carols and cinnamon; the other candles, classical music and pine.

After 10 minutes, volunteers in the more Christmassy room had eaten 20 mince pies while the others had eaten only 13.

Multisensory world

Professor Michael Brammer, whose research company Neurosense carried out the study, said: "We compared the best and worst combinations, and found that significantly more pies were eaten in the room with the best combination.

"Presumably this was because volunteers in that room felt more Christmassy."

Dr Charles Spence, from the department of experimental psychology at Oxford University, said: "Until recently, research has focused on each sense in isolation, but our actual experience of the world is a multisensory one.

"The results of this study clearly show that the degree to which an image, a particular type of music, or a smell can elicit a Christmassy mood depends strongly on their synergy."

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