A Surprising Factor to Finding Friends: Scent
By: Zhile Chen
It is natural that people don’t like to be near others who smell bad, and therefore try to stay away from them. Research has now found that smell also subconsciously influences other decisions, like determining if we want to be friends with someone.
Scientists who research the human sense of smell are wondering if our noses are telling our brain more than we think they are. The smells of others might be influencing who we like to spend time with.
In a study that was published on Wednesday in a journal called Science Advances, a group of researchers from Israel investigated people who instantly became friends. They found that the pairs of friends’ body odor were too similar to be completely coincidental and entertained the idea of similar scents influencing our relationships.
The researches then proceeded to pair strangers up with each other and then play a game together. It turned out that if they had similar body odor, they would feel they had a good connection.
In another study, Inbal Ravreby, a researcher who studies the sense of smell, found that the friends’ odor was more similar to each other than they were to others.
She enlisted 20 pairs of friends who instantly liked each other to stop eating foods that affect body odor for a few days, to not use too much deodorant, to bathe using an unscented soap, and then to sleep in a clean shirt the lab handed out and return it.
After that, Ravreby and her fellow researchers used an electronic nose to assess how similar the T-shirts smelled to the one from the other part of the pair. While Ravreby theorized that “It’s very probable that at least some of them were using perfumes when they met,” she also thought that it likely “did not mask whatever they had in common.”
There are many reasons humans might smell alike. It might be their lifestyle, what they eat, or it they spend near each other, which makes it difficult to say if the relationship or the smell came first. To test if the similar smells were from before the friends met, Ravreby and the other scientists did another study which led them to believe that the similar smells of strangers lead people to become friends. The researchers were able to correctly predict whether people in the study felt a good connection 71 percent of the time based on their scent.
In the study, she proceeded to recruit 132 strangers, all of whom were told to stink up the t-shirt and then came into the lab to play a mirroring game, where they were paired up with a stranger and asked to mimic their partners movements. They then filled out some questionnaires on whether they felt a connection with their partners.
The answers they received have only provided further evidence to the results of the first study, however the researcher’s studying is far from over.
Currently, the researchers are studying whether changing the scent to resemble others will make these people seek out those with a similar modified body odor. If the humans react accordingly than this will prove that we may be using our scent of smells to influence our decisions.
Source: The New York Times Does Your Nose Help Pick your Friends?