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Does Your Nose Help You Make Friends?

By: Alex Yang

Up until now, making friends has mostly been left up to your judgment on them as a person, but does your sense of smell actually help you decide who to be friends with? We like to think that we don’t go about our day smelling other people. But on the contrary, like other mammals, our specific odors might mean something to people around us.

Many of these smells (mostly the unpleasant ones), are self-explanatory in meaning. But scientists are wondering if the smells that other people give off can help us decide who to make friends with. Among the other factors, including how, when, and where you meet someone, smell has been shown in a small study published on Wednesday to impact who people consider their friends as.

Inbal Ravreby, a graduate student wanted to study if people who became friends almost instantly have something to do with smell. She tested this by finding 20 pairs of friends, then wiping the variables.

She gave the participants each a diet free from foods that could give an odor, like foods with garlic, the participants were also prohibited from using scented soap, instead, they were given scentless soap. She then gave the participants clean, lab-provided T-shirts, after sleeping in the shirts for a night, Inbal collected them and studied their scents with sensors.

And in the end, Inbal was intrigued to find that the friend’s odors are more similar to each other than strangers. This finding implies that sniffing an odor similar to our own generates good feelings. Scientists in this field of research have also found that friends have links to genetics, brain activity, and appearance. These discoveries could open up new ideas about why humans connect with each other, and why we’re such social beings.

Even though they did a lot of work to make sure that the participants were clean when they did the test, there could have been many reasons why some people showed mixed results. “It’s very probable that at least some of them were using perfumes when they met,” Ms. Ravreby speculated.

Although Covid 19 has stopped further testing because of the nature of the study, the team is looking to find if people with similar body odor tend to group together. If this is the case, we might be closer to other mammals in the way we judge others than we think, and maybe we didn’t even grow that far away from them.

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