Repeatability of odour preferences across time



Roberts SC, Havlicek J & Petrie M (2013) Repeatability of odour preferences across time. Flavour and Fragrance Journal, 28 (4), pp. 245-250.

Human body odour is often associated with negative attributions, hence the term ‘malodour'. Another perspective is that odours contain biologically meaningful information involved in communication of social cues, notably in perception of suitable mates. This evolutionarily informed perspective indicates that we retain capacity to infermate quality through olfaction (e.g. preferring odours of high-quality or genetically compatible individuals). From either perspective, knowing the extent to which body odour is stable over time is important: either in order to fully understand how perfumes might interact with body odour orwhether the biological cues gained fromodour are reliable. In addition, fromthe second perspective, odour-basedmate preferences should also be relatively stable over time, especially if both traits and preferences are genetically influenced. Herewe measured repeatability in young women of body odour preferences for male odours, over a 3-month period. We also compare stability of body odour preferences with that of preferences for faces and fragrances. We find that preferences for all stimuli were highly repeatable over time. Since the odour stimuli used were repeated samples from the same set of men, repeatability of preferences also indicates odour constancy of individuals over time. Our results on both odour constancy and repeatability of preference have implications for the perfume industry and also lend weight to the assumption that body odour constitutes a meaningful cue of quality that can be used in individual assessment during human interactions.

olfaction; smell; attractiveness; body odour; mate choice; evolutionary psychology; face;

Flavour and Fragrance Journal: Volume 28, Issue 4

Publication date31/07/2013
Date accepted by journal27/11/2012

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Professor Craig Roberts
Professor Craig Roberts

Professor of Social Psychology, Psychology