You smell like me, let’s be friends – SWR knowledge

As the saying goes, equals like to join. And there is something to be said when it comes to scent.

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Do my friends smell like me?

If we look around our circle of friends, we can see that often many interests, traits, looks, and values ​​fit together. Scientists are now investigating whether people who like each other and make friends also have similar body odors.

similarities between friends

It is already known from various studies that people who are similar are more likely to be friends than when they are fundamentally different.

Especially with friendships that have not developed in a long time, but spontaneously – at a birthday party, for example – the first impression of whether you like each other or not plays a decisive role. Israeli scientists now wanted to find out if the body odor of their friends was similar. In their study in the journal Science Advances, they tested their hypothesis with two experiments.

According to their own statements, the friendship of 40 selected test subjects developed spontaneously and outside the situation – so it “surprised” directly. Researchers refer to these types of bonds as “click friendships.”

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To see if the girlfriends actually had similar body odors, the researchers used worn-out, odorless T-shirts from a total of 20 same-sex girlfriends. The garments created a scent profile for each test subject, which was then sensed by an electronic nose – that is, a device with sensors – and the scents were compared.

And it turned out that the friends smelled much more similar than people who didn’t know each other. Electric noses, which compared fragrance based on five selected chemical components, were not the only testers of the fragrance profile.

Test the spies at work

People could also smell T-shirts and analyze the similarity of smells. In the so-called triangle test, two friends fragrances and an independent fragrance were shared.

In its original form, the triangle test is a three-sample test method – two are identical, one is different. The question in this type of test is: what is the deviant sample?

The experiment performed here was a slightly modified form of the triangle test because two identical fragrances are not compared with each other as is usually the case. Two similar smells were more difficult to detect. The test researchers were not able to conclusively tell which fragrances matched each other.

In another experiment, two fragrances were tested in a direct comparison. The sniffers of the human tests were also able to tell the difference: they could sense whether the pair of smells came from friends, i.e. is similar or not. The result agreed with the electronic nose analyzes.

Harmony goes through the nose

Friends can therefore develop a similar scent due to the same general conditions. The same place of residence or work can affect body odor, for example. This would mean that it is not a similar smell that affects friendship, but a friendship that affects a similar body odor.

To test this combination, the research team conducted another experiment. Here, the fragrance sample was recreated by 17 test people who did not know each other. In the game, subjects were asked to mimic the hand movements of their same-sex player without talking to each other. The goal was to test the harmony and interaction between two people. The test subjects then assessed whether they “clicked” with their partner and how much they liked finding their counterpart.

Friends agree on many things. Scientists now conclude that body odor is also similar.


And indeed: the scent profiles of people who harmonized in the game were, on average, more similar than couples who did not like each other right away. Scientists even managed to create a model that showed that scientists can use the odor profile to predict who will get along well during the game.

Our emotional sense of smell

So whether we like it or not, our nose often influences our social behavior more than many people think – in line with the motto “always follow your nose!”. For humans, the sense of smell has a primary protective function: it warns against dangers such as fire or gas, for example. The body also rejects spoiled food with the nose through physical reactions such as sneezing, coughing, and choking.

The sense of smell is considered the most immediate human sense. When you hear, feel or see, the received signals are processed only in the cerebral cortex. It is different with smell because the sense of smell does not have a place in the brain that is solely responsible for this processing. Smells have a direct effect on the limbic system in the brain. This area is also responsible for processing feelings, memories and creating new emotions.

With so many interconnected sensations and thousands of different smells in our surroundings, it’s no wonder that our nose sometimes has a mind of its own and affects our perception. Whether it’s summer rain, fresh coffee in the morning, or the familiar childhood smell from home, our nose always reminds us of certain moments, influences our mood and the choice of partners and friends.

Nose from below (photo: Colourbox)

The sense of smell unconsciously influences many of our emotions.


sniffing friends

The mechanisms in the brain responsible for the phenomenon of similar body odors in friends have not yet been studied in detail. But it seems that we humans are unconsciously looking for a body odor similar and familiar to ours.

So we do it a bit like dogs sniffing each other, be they enemies or friends. Not as conspicuous as animals at best if we really want to be friends. When making the first impression, follow your nose!

more on this topic

Planet School: How does the fragrance work?
Our nose tells us the stench as well as sweet smells. But what exactly is happening in our olfactory organ? We look inside.

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