Body odour can tell your personality: Study

Last Updated: Dec 04, 2011, 19:18 PM IST

Washington: Want to know someone better? Just take a whiff of the person`s clothes, as it could help detect his or her personality traits, a new study has suggested.

In the Polish study, published in the European Journal of Personality, participants were asked to assess how outgoing, anxious or dominant people were by just taking a whiff of their clothes.

While the match-up between responses by the judges and the judged were not perfect, they suggest that, when forming a first impression, we take into account a person`s smell, as well as visual and audible cues to their personality traits, the researchers said.

We not only express ourselves through our looks, "we also express ourselves with how we smell," study author Agnieszka Sorokowska of University of Wroclaw was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

For their study, published in the European Journal of Personality, the researchers asked 30 men and 30 women to don white cotton t-shirts for three consecutive nights. They were also asked not to use fragrances, deodorants or soaps, and not smoke or drink or eat odorous foods during the study.

Shirts from the "odour donors" were collected and rated by 100 men and 100 women. Raters were asked to smell the shirts and evaluate five personality traits of the donors, on a scale of one to 10. Each rater assessed six shirts, and each shirt was assessed by 20 raters.

The judges` ratings matched up with the self-assessments of the donors for three personality traits: extroversion, neuroticism (the tendency to feel anxious and moody) and dominance (the urge to be a leader).

The matches were far from perfect. But the predictions by raters about the donor`s level of extroversion and neuroticism through smell were almost matched to those found in a different study on them based on a video depicting a person`s behaviour, Sorokowska said.

Judgements of dominance were also most accurate in the case where an individual rater was assessing the odour of someone who was the opposite sex, suggesting such judgements are especially important when it comes to choosing a mate, the researchers said.

Extroversion, neuroticism and dominance are all traits that may, to some extent, be expressed physiologically, including through our emotions, the researchers said.

For instance, people who are neurotic may sweat more when they experience stress, which would modify the bacteria in their underarms and make them smell different, they said.

Personality traits may also be linked with the secretion of hormones that could alter a persons` scent. People who are high in dominance may have higher levels of testosterone, which in turn may modify their sweat glands, they added.

However, the results are preliminary and more studies need to be done to confirm them, Sorokowska said.

PTI