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Could Body Odor Decide Friendships?

By: Eric Weinberg

People don’t constantly smell each other, although we always catch the scent of other people and their unique natural odors. Recent studies, however, have shown something much deeper, even impacting our brain.

Most of the scents we give off are acquired, or the food we just ate, our cologne, and the detergent on our clothes. Our natural scents include the smell of the oils on our skin or sweat. Scientists who are studying the human sense of smell, olfaction, wanted to explore this idea and find out how smell shapes the decisions we make.

We already know at the basic and more complex levels how friendships form. It is not only just maturity level and hobbies but brain activity and genetics. Some friendships form instantly; these are called “click” friendships. These friendships form from more than just spending time together or sharing similar interests and foods. According to the Science Advances journal, a recent study shows the body odors of certain friends tend to be similar. Inbal Ravreby was very interested if there really was an olfactory component to friendship and decided to conduct a series of studies.

First, she brought together 20 pairs of friends who thought of themselves as “click” friends. Her lab had them lay off deodorants, perfumes, aftershaves, and any foods like onions and garlic that would affect their scent. They bathed with unscented soap provided by the lab as well. This continued for a few days until they were brought back in and given a fresh, lab-provided t-shirt to wear for 24 hours and then bring it back to the lab for analysis. 25 volunteers and electronic noses showed that the T-shirt odors were very similar with pairs of friends, though much different than two strangers. This evidence further supports Ravreby’s hypothesis.

These scents could be from similar lifestyles or cultures. In order to further investigate this, researchers began another study. They gathered 132 random strangers. They wore a T-shirt for 24 hours, then came into the lab to play a game. Each person was assigned a partner and asked to mimic the movements they chose and made. Then the role was switched, with the 2nd partner becoming the chooser, and the 1st partner becoming the mimicker. After the mirroring game was finished, the participants were asked to fill out a survey that questioned how much of a connection they had with their partner. The odors of the T-shirts were collected, and the results showed that 71% of the time the odors predicted a connection. Both of these studies show very intriguing evidence.

Looking forward, scientists want to try and modify odors in order to create relationships and study relationships between behaviors and scents.. There are a lot of mysteries for the scientists studying this topic to solve and explore. Could every sniff mean more than you know?

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