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Does Your Nose Choose Your Friends?
By: Sydney Xiong
While humans maintain the proper etiquette of not smelling one another, a recent study
shows that people with similar odors are able to connect better. Despite our efforts to have polite manners, humans naturally give off odors, whether pleasant or less so. Since humans are scientifically similar to other land animals, this particular perfume can be meaningful to other humans.
While it is self-explanatory how the reek of someone who hasn’t bathed in a long time or
the odor of a toddler changing their diapers can be a drawback to others, scientists who study
human olfaction have found that the scent that wafts off one’s skin can trigger a subconscious
reaction to those around them. It is possible that their brains are shaping whom they like and don’t like to spend time around without even realizing it.
This is proven in a small study in the journal entitled Science Advances, where researchers
found that pairs of friends whose friendships “clicked” from the beginning possessed personal body odors that were closer to their friends than by chance.
There are many factors that can shape friendship, such as how, when, or where one meets
a new person. However, researchers suggest that one thing most people pick up on is scent.
Inbal Ravreby, an olfaction researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel was
curious if swift friendships had an olfactory factor. She recruited 20 pairs of “click friends”, then put them through a regimen that's common for human body research. She told them to stop eating foods like garlic and onion, stop using aftershave and deodorant, bathe with unscented soap, then sleep in a lab provided T shirt until it turns smelly before handing it over to the researchers.
Ravreby used an electronic nose to assess the scent rising from each shirt. They were
interested to find that the friends’ odors were more similar to each other than those of strangers.
This could prove that scent was one of the things that people pick up on before befriending one another.
However, the COVID pandemic curtailed further research using Ravreby’s design of
research, as experiments that involve strangers getting close enough to smell each other have been difficult to set up.
Recently, researchers are looking into modifying people’s odor to see if people who’ve
been made to smell similar to one another would be able to bond with one another. If this study was effective, then there would be more evidence pointing to the hypothesis that humans, similar to other terrestrial mammals, use the sense of smell to make decisions.