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Body Odor Similarities Forge Friendships

By: Michael Chang

On Wednesday, June 22, 2022, olfaction lab researchers from the Israel Science Foundation Inbal Ravreby, Kobi Snitz, and Noam Sobel coauthored numerous scientific studies in the Science Advances journal about how friends tend to have similar body odors.

Dr. Sobel recruited 20 pairs of friends who bonded quickly. She put them through a body odor research regimen. In this regimen, she told them to stop eating foods that affect body odor, refrain from after-shave, not use deodorant, bathe with an unscented soap, and sleep in a lab-provided shirt. After every pair of friends completed this body odor research regimen, they returned their sleeping shirts to the researchers.

With these odor-filled shirts, the researchers used an electronic nose and 25 other volunteers to assess the similarities of the smells of each shirt.

After the experiment, the researchers discovered that pairs of friends usually had more similar body odors than strangers did. This conclusion provided notable progress in proving that people with similar body smells are more likely to be friends with each other.

To continue their olfactory bonding research, the researchers performed another experiment with 132 strangers. Everyone completed the same body odor research regimen as the test subjects in the previous experiment.

Then, they were all invited to the lab to play a mirroring game. After they split into pairs, they mirrored their partner’s movements and attempted to form a friendship. Lastly, all the test subjects reported how strong of a connection they felt with their partner through a questionnaire.

Shockingly, odor similarities predicted whether both felt there had been a positive connection 71 percent of the time. The results of this experiment demonstrated the significant impact that similar smells have in choosing friends.

Following these studies, the three researchers are curious whether modifying body odor can encourage bonding and friendship.

While describing the complexities of human scents, Dr. Sobel remarked, “If you think of the bouquet that is body odor, it’s 6,000 molecules at least … it’s probably way more.” Notably, there is massive potential for many more scientific discoveries in the mysterious and fascinating field of olfaction.


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