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Do we Use Scent to Choose Our Friends?

By: Emily Wang

While you might think of your friends as people who share the same hobbies and interests as you, you might share the same body odor as well.

Research suggests that your nose can pick out body odors similar to your own. In one study published in the journal Science Advances, researchers began observing groups of friends who “clicked” together as soon as they met. The researchers found out that each person’s odor was similar to their friend’s. Then, when the researchers put groups of strangers together to play a game, their body odors predicted if they felt like they had a good interaction.

It turns out that it’s not just the same type of music taste, same clothes style, and identical favorite hobbies that determine if someone is a good friend for a specific person. In fact, what you smell like also seems to play a factor in it.

Scientists also discovered that friends have more similarities besides age and what they like to do. Genetics, patterns of brian activity, and presence are also some things friends might have in common.

Inbal Ravreby, a graduate student of Noam Sobel, an olfaction researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel wanted to see if fast, instantly formed friendships had something to do with whether their noses had picked up each other’s smells.

She grabbed 20 people who were supposed to be instant friends and told them to stop doing some regular habits such as eating onions and garlic, using aftershave and deodorant, and using scented soap. Finally, the lad gave each participant a clean T-shirt to sleep in so they could get their smell all over it.

Using electric noses, the researchers went to each shirt and tried to pick up the volatiles, a group of chemicals that are vaporized, coming off the shirt. They also had 25 other volunteers assess the similarity of each shirt’s odor as well. The study showed that the odors of friends were more similar to each other’s.

Now, the team plans to take their experiment a step further by modifying each person’s scent and observing the results. They are trying to figure out if the similarity of people’s smells will cause them to band together. If we are anything like terrestrial animals, we will use our sense of smell to help us.


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