People can guess your personality by simply smelling your t-shirt, research finds.
The study showed that people were as accurate at guessing personality when smelling their clothes as when watching a video of them.
Not all personality traits were easy to spot, though.
The researchers found that people were good at identifying these three personality traits:
- and dominance.
In fact, people were particularly accurate at smelling the dominance (or otherwise) of the opposite sex.
Smell, though, didn’t provide much insight into whether someone was open to experience, agreeable or conscientious.
For the research, 60 people were asked to wear plain white t-shirts for three nights and avoid strong smelling foods and perfumes etc..
Volunteers then sniffed the t-shirts.
The smell of dominance may be related to levels of testosterone, the study’s authors suggest:
“…dominant and aggressive behaviour tends to
correlate positively with elevated levels of testosterone and its metabolites.
Testosterone stimulates proliferation of sebocytes and affects functioning of apocrine sweat glands, and it is probable that more dominant men smell differently.”
Similarly, ‘chemosignalling’ of anxiety and fear is well-known in the animal kingdom:
Chemosignalling of fear and stress in the form of alarm pheromones is well documented in many animals.
Experiencing these emotions is accompanied
by a series of neurochemical changes, some of which may be released in the sweat.
Other explanations for how people can smell personality, are, of course, possible:
“The exact mechanism of assessing personality based on body odour needs still to be investigated.
It is possible, for example, that people infer personality traits based on pleasantness of body odour.”
However, a previous study has shown that you can smell a happy person:
“People communicate their happiness to others through their perspiration.
There are chemical compounds in sweat, it turns out, that can be detected by others.
Previous studies have shown that we can smell fear and disgust in sweat — but happiness has been more of a gray area.”
The study was published in the European Journal of Personality (Sorokoska et al., 2011).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Hair smelling image from Shutterstock