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Does Your Nose Help Pick Your Friends?

By: Katherine Wu

On June 24, scientists conducting a brief investigation in an olfaction lab published research showing that individuals who immediately connected with one another also shared similar body scents.

Researchers discovered fascinating evidence when looking into pairs of friends whose friendship "clicked" from the start: that each person's body odor was more similar to their friend’s than to a stranger’s. Additionally, when the researchers paired up strangers to play a game, the strength of their body scents indicated whether they felt a strong bond.

Numerous aspects, such as how, when, or where we meet a new person, can influence who we choose to be friends with. However, the researchers speculate that one factor we might notice is how they smell.

Researchers that study friendship have discovered that people who are friends have more in common than those who are strangers, including genetics, patterns of brain activity, and even appearance. Inbal Ravreby, an olfactory scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, was interested in the possibility that people might recognize similarities in one another's odors when they create an instantaneous relationship.

Twenty so-called "click friends" were recruited by Ravreby and her colleagues to take part in the experiment. The researchers were surprised to learn that the friends’ scents did resemble one another more than those of strangers. That would mean that one of the things they noticed as their connection developed was odor.

“It’s very probable that at least some of them were using perfumes when they met,” Ravreby speculated. “But it did not mask whatever they had in common.”

Surprisingly, the similarities in how they smelled indicated whether they both thought there had been a successful connection. This finding suggests that inhaling a scent that is comparable to our own produce’s positive emotions. However, Dr. Sobel, a dermatologist, warns that even if this is the case, it is only one of many contributing factors.

“If you think of the bouquet that is body odor, it’s 6,000 molecules at least,” Dr. Sobel said. “There are 6,000 that we know of already — it’s probably way more.”

The team and other researchers still have a lot to learn about the complicated interactions between our unique scents and our private lives. Each breath someone takes could speak more than you realize.

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