Perfume experts' perceptions of body odors: Towards a new lexicon for body odor description



Allen C, Havlicek J, Williams K & Roberts SC (2018) Perfume experts' perceptions of body odors: Towards a new lexicon for body odor description. Journal of Sensory Studies, 33 (2), Art. No.: e12314.

Human axillary (armpit) odours are highly diverse and have potential to reveal a wide range of individual information. This is echoed in gas chromatography findings, which show that axillary odours are comprised of many volatile compounds. Despite this, only a small number of verbal descriptors are used when investigating the perceptual qualities of body odours. We set out to develop a lexicon that would capture these perceptual qualities in more detail, working alongside perfumers and fragrance evaluators in order to benefit from their expertise in olfactory perception and semantic labelling of odours. Four experts developed a list of 15 verbal descriptors based on an exemplar set of male and female axillary samples, and then rated 62 samples (31 men and 31 women) using these. We explored the predictive value of these ratings, finding that subsets of descriptors distinguished male from female samples, appearing to be more reliable than explicit judgments of odour sex. Practical applications. This lexicon was successful in discriminating sex of odour samples and could enable improved understanding of other perceptual qualities of human odour. For example, it could be possible to link specific perceptual qualities to specific cues (e.g. symmetry, masculinity) or to manipulate odours based on perceptual qualities in experimental settings, with direct practical implications for odour researchers. Furthermore, the existence of such a lexicon will allow body odours to be categorised for practical purposes. For example, such categorisation will facilitate exploration of how fragrances, ingredients or accords may interact with and complement different body odour types.

Journal of Sensory Studies: Volume 33, Issue 2

Publication date30/04/2018
Publication date online22/01/2018
Date accepted by journal08/01/2018

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Professor Craig Roberts

Professor Craig Roberts

Professor of Social Psychology, Psychology