What does it mean to be compatible with someone from a BO perspective?
A recent study on friendship and smell found that people can pick up on certain elements of others’ scents that subconsciously draw them to those people or help create a “click” feeling of connection. When analyzing the body odors of 20 pairs of friends who mutually agreed that they “just clicked” when they met, the researchers found that each pair smelled very similar to each other. To ensure that these odor similarities were indeed reflective of people’s actual B.O., the researchers used T-shirts that they slept in for two consecutive days, during which they did not use perfume, deodorant or scented soaps, and avoided spicy foods and drinks – only Leaving pure BO behind (yum).
“We suspect that having a similar body odor is a relevant factor for people who experience clicking [friendship] An event with someone else.” —Inbal Ravrebi, social-science researcher
What makes this particularly interesting is that, even though these people met their “click” friends in real life—where any elements of that lifestyle could have masked their true odor—they still somehow gravitated toward people whose underlying natural odors were similar to theirs. More than expected by chance, says Inbal Ravrebi, the study’s lead author and a graduate student in the Department of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science. “So we suspect that having similar body odor is a relevant factor for people experiencing the phenomenon of clicking with someone else, even in a natural setting where you might not be able to consciously detect it.”
To further test that theory, the scientists also gathered strangers, collected their scent through sleeping T-shirts, and had them play a game where people stood close to each other and mirrored each other’s body movements. Then, participants filled out a questionnaire, rating various aspects of how connected they felt to their play partner. And 71 percent of the time, strangers who reported a “click” also had more similar odors than random pairs, suggesting a tendency for people to subconsciously gravitate toward and feel more comfortable with others who share parts of their own BO.
Importantly, the friend and stranger pairs in this study all included two heterosexual individuals of the same sex, both because people of different sexes naturally have distinct odors, and because sexual compatibility and the biology of smell have been shown to use different types. of the tinge. Previous research has found that women rate a man’s body odor as more sexually attractive when it reflects human leukocyte antigen (HLA, an underlying gene complex). different From their own – especially when they are not taking hormonal contraception (although the same thing does not happen in the other direction with men).
So, does body odor have a different effect on initial attraction or “click” compatibility based on whether you view the person as a potential mate or sexual partner? maybe “Whereas mate selection may naturally have something to do with our ability to detect genetic diversity, friendship does not require the same level of diversity,” says olfactory scientist and experimental psychologist Pam Dalton, PhD, MPH, who conducts research on smell. Monell Chemical Senses Lab. “We naturally choose to mate with different people for different reasons, like companionship versus reproduction, and that smell plays a role in both, which is pretty compelling when you think about it.”
Why does body odor affect compatibility with platonic friends and romantic partners?
Short answer: Blame evolution for why we’re wired to single out romantic and platonic partners through scent, at least in part.
In the context of romantic partnerships (at least for heterosexual partners), the evolutionary link between odor and compatibility stems from the above-mentioned research showing that females tend to gravitate toward males with their different HLA genetic code, as indicated by certain odors. signs. What is the reason? HLA is a component of the immune system, and being born with someone who has a different HLA than yours means your baby will have an immune system better able to deal with a wider variety of pathogens, Ravreby says. It’s also true that someone with a different HLA than yours is unlikely to be a relative — and it’s always good to have two parents who are, well, unrelated, for the genetics of a potential future child. (Again, this theory only applies to heterosexual pairings; other research suggests that “factors independent of reproduction” play a role in how odors influence heterosexual attraction.)
As for platonic compatibility and smell, the “why” behind the tendency for people to choose mates who smell similar to them is a little less clear, although Ravrebi still holds an evolutionary advantage.
“We know from previous research that mates are often more similar than genetically random dyads, which raises the question, ‘How do they know?'” she says. “You don’t meet someone and say, ‘Excuse me, I need to sequence your genes, and then I’ll decide if I want to be friends or not.’ But somehow this genetic similarity occurs between peers, and one possible route is through olfactory cues.”
Just as the particular smell associated with a person’s HLA can provide clues about their genetic differences from you—and, in turn, their qualifications as a potential sexual partner—these olfactory cues can also hint at genetic similarities. And choosing to befriend people who are genetically similar to you can be of evolutionary advantage, because they may share other key traits with you, Dr. Dalton says, like their cultural background, upbringing, or lifestyle.
How important is “scent compatibility” with friends and romantic partners, both initial and long-term?
Although someone’s smell can make you more or less likely to instantly vibe with them (see: all the subconscious motivations above), it’s important to note that it’s still just that. one Factors of initial compatibility between many. “People have clicked with other people via video conference, where there’s no smell involved, so we know that body odor isn’t a necessary factor for that,” says Ravreby. And, of course, just because someone smells good to you—whether consciously or subconsciously—doesn’t mean they have other traits necessary for a healthy, lasting friendship (like, say, communication skills).
As the friendship progresses, it is also possible that odor compatibility may become less important or less relevant. Not only are people generally less surprised by the smell of their friends than a potential or current romantic partner (more on that below), but it’s also likely that being friends with someone will make you smell the same. , anyway, says Ravreby. “Friends tend to lead similar lifestyles, live in close proximity and eat the same types of things, and it’s possible that this affects their body odor in similar ways.”
In the case of a sexual or romantic partner, sharing some degree of “odor compatibility”—in this case, possibly genetically different Odors – can be a bit more important. “We know that people are not very tolerant of what they perceive as unpleasant odors on a romantic partner, and this can be a contributing factor to breakups,” Ravrebi says.
On the flip side, loving a partner’s scent may be positively related to relationship longevity. A recent study on body odor among couples identified a possible “positive feedback loop” between how much a person likes their partner’s BO and how much they are exposed to it, which researchers suspect may actually increase relationship commitment.
All that said, remember that Ravreby’s study was on a small group of people (and the other studies cited also have small sample sizes)—so, more research is needed to understand all aspects of odor compatibility IRL. As a result, many implications of how body odor affects connectivity are still unknown to the nose.