Do Our Noses Smell Friendships?



By: Jiahao Chen


Somewhere in a lab, a test was about to begin in lab of Noam Sobel. It was a simple test, but the outcome could change everything. All that needed to be done was to just fill a t-shirt with a person’s body odor, and that was that. They were about to confirm a theory that would change the way we see our noses.


Scientists from multiple different labs have made the same discovery. They determined that when we smell someone’s scent, we can decide our relationship with them. They are continuing to study the human nose, hoping to further discover the true abilities of it.


On Wednesday, a study was published in the journal Science Advances. The study showed that people who almost immediately became friends had a very similar scent in their body odor. Another test was held where two unrelated people played a game, and their body odor helped decide how they thought of each other.


Inbal Ravreby, a graduate student from the lab of Noam Sobel and olfaction researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel wanted to see if close friends had similarities in their body odor, too. She recruited 20 pairs of friends who immediately had a liking for each other. The lab requested the subjects not eat foods that have a strong smell, not to use after-shave or deodorant, and lastly bathe using a non-scented soap from the lab. They were then asked to put on a t-shirt and sleep in it for a night, to give off their scent to the shirt, and then give it back to the lab to test.


The results came and the scent from the two friends were very similar, proving that their friendship picked off from the similarity of their odor. The lab used an electric nose to smell the shirts, and then later brought in 25 volunteers to smell the t-shirts too. “It’s very probable that at least some of them were using perfumes when they met,” Inbal alleged. “But it did not mask whatever they had in common.”


They later tried another experiment, using the theory of the previous test. They brought in 132 strangers to do the same test. After the t-shirts came in, they played a mirroring game to help answer a questionnaire about how they felt about their partner. The result of the questionnaire showed that 71% of the time, their partner’s scent predicted whether they liked or disliked him/her.

Researchers are trying to get more information on our noses. The team is currently trying to modify body odor to see if modified body odor would change the way someone feels about the other person. It is still a mystery whether we can unlock our noses’ full potential, but what if we could?

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