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Did your nose choose all of your friends?

By: Ruyi Wang

Does our nose get to decide who we like to hang out with and who we don’t? This may surprise the majority of people, but apparently, our nose does that when we meet different people.

We think we become friends with someone because of their personality, aesthetics, etc., but according to studies, your nose might also "choose" people who you want to be friends with. Your nose tends to choose people with body odor similar to yours.

Scientists who study human olfaction, or humans' sense of scent, questioned if the scent wafting off our skin was recorded at a subconscious level in the brains of surrounding people.

In fact, according to the study published on Wednesday, pairs of friends who attracted each other soon after they met have similar body odors.

According to scientists who study friendship, two friends are much more alike compared to strangers. They might have similar personalities and hobbies, but they also have similar genetics, appearance, and pattern of their brains.

Inbal Ravreby, a graduate student in the lab of Noam Sobel, an olfaction researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel wondered whether there was also a scent-related factor to friendships that form instantly.

Ravreby assembled 20 pairs of "click" friends (friends who became friends as soon as they met each other.) She put them through a regimen that restricted them from eating "smelly" foods such as onions and garlic for several days, which can actually impact your body odor. She told them to stop using scented products and only wash their bodies with unscented soap bars. Then she provided them with clean T-shirts to sleep in it so the T-shirt would absorb their natural scents.

Ms. Ravreby and her coworkers utilized an electronic nose to test the similarity of the scent of the T-shirts of each pair. They also had 25 volunteers smell them as well. The result was that friends' odors were more similar to each other than to strangers. Odors might have been the main factor that they chose each other.

Ms. Ravreby also stated that people might have used perfumes, but that could never really cover up their real scents.

However, there are many reasons friends can smell similar; they might have similar lifestyles and eat similar foods. This factor makes it difficult to tell if the smell or the friendship came first. To prove that the smell came first, the researchers had 132 strangers sleep in the T-shirts they provided and play a mirror game with a partner. The rule for this game is to mimic what the other person does. After that, they filled out a questionnaire about whether they felt a connection with that person.

The similarity of the odors predicted that the two strangers would feel a positive connection with each other 71% of the time. That suggests that smelling a similar odor to our own can create pleasant feelings.

The field of olfaction still has many unknowns, and researchers and scientists are now studying how our odor affects our social life. A breath of air can be way more complicated than you think.

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