Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

A cross-cultural study on the attitude towards personal odors

  • 326 Accesses

  • 72 Citations

Abstract

Human axillary odor was used in testing the ability of male and female subjects to distinguish between gender and individuals. The subjects also gave a qualitative evaluation of the odors. The tests were carried out in Japan, Italy, and Germany. Of all three cultures, 80% of the participants could significantly distinguish among the odor of individuals; 50% could identify the person correctly to whom the recognized odor belonged. Discrimination between male and female odor was significantly shown by 20% of Italian, 30% of German, and 60% of Japanese subjects. The qualitative evaluation of male and female odor was the same in the three cultures: male odor was classified more unpleasant and less pleasant than female odor. Men classified their own odor more unpleasant than women did with their own. A cultural difference was found concerning partner's odor: though men classified it alike (predominantly pleasant), women differed. Japanese and Italian women classified their partner's odor predominantly unpleasant, German women predominantly pleasant. In general the Japanese subjects classified the odors less often pleasant than the Italian and German subjects did.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Adachi, B. 1903. Der Geruch der Europäer.Globus 83:14–15.

  2. Altmann, I., andVinsel, A.M. 1977. Personal space, an analysis of E.T. Hall's proxemic framework,in J. Altmann and J. F. Wohlwill (eds.) Human Behavior and Environment, pp. 181–259 Plenum Press, New York.

  3. Baxter, J.C. 1970. Interpersonal spacing in natural settings.Sociometry 33:444–456.

  4. Brooksbank, B.W.L., Brown, R., andGustafsson, J.-A. 1974. The detection of 5a-androst-16-en-3a-ol in human male axillary sweat.Experienlia 30:864–865.

  5. Cain, W.S. 1977. Physical and cognitive limitations on olfactory processing in human beings,in D. Müller-Schwarze and M. Mozell (eds.). Chemical Signals in Vertebrates, pp. 287–302, Plenum Press, New York.

  6. Claus, R., andAlsing, W. 1976. Occurrence of 5a-androst-16-en-3-one, a boar pheromone, in man and its relationship to testosterone.J. Endocrinol. 68:483–484.

  7. Doty, R.L. 1977. A review of recent psychophysical studies examining the possibility of chemical communication of sex and reproductive state in humans,in D. Müller-Schwarze and M. Mozell (eds.). Chemical Signals in Vertebrates pp. 273–286, Plenum Press, New York.

  8. Doty, R.L., Orndorff, M.M., Leyden, J. andKligman, A. 1978. Communication of gender from human axillary odors: Relationship to perceived intensity and hedonicity.Behav. Biol. 23:373–380.

  9. Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. 1973. Taubblind geborenes Mädchen. Ausdrucksverhalten.Homo 24:39–47.

  10. Elsberg, C.A. 1937. Newer aspects of olfactory physiology and their diagnostic applications.Arch, Neural. Psychiatr. 37:223–236.

  11. Exline, R.V. 1963. Explorations in the process of person perception: Visual interaction in relation to competition, sex and need for affiliation.J. Pers. 31:1–20.

  12. Fiedler, P. 1955. Der Schweiss. Editio Cantor, Aulendorf.

  13. Hall, E.T. 1966. The Hidden Dimension. Doubleday, New York.

  14. Hold, B., andSchleidt, M. 1977. The importance of human odour in nonverbal communication.Z, Tierpsychol. 43:225–238.

  15. Holst, D. von, andSclesk, S. 1975. Über den Informationsgehalt des Sternaldrüsensekretes männlicher und weiblicher Tupaia belangen.J. Comp. Physiol. 103:173–188.

  16. Hurley, H.J., andShelley, W.B. 1960. The Human Apocrine Sweat Gland in Health and Disease. Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, Illinois.

  17. Iwawaki, S., andEysenck, H.J. 1978. Sexual attitudes among British and Japanese students.J. Psychol. 98:289–298.

  18. Kaplan, J. 1977. Perceptual properties of attachment in surrogate-reared and mother-reared monkeys, pp. 225–234,in S. Chevalier-Skolnikoff and F.E. Poirier (eds.). Primate Bio-Social Development. Garland, New York.

  19. Koelega, H.S., andKoester, E.P. 1974. Some experiments on sex differences in odor perception: Odors: evaluation, utilization and control.Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 237:224–246.

  20. Le Magnen, J. 1948. Analyse d'odeurs complexes et homologues par fatigue.C.R. Acad. Sci. 226:753–754.

  21. Le Magnen, J. 1952. Les phénomènes olfactosexuels chez l'Homme.Arch. Sci. Physical. 6: 125–160.

  22. MacFarlane, A. 1975. Olfaction in the development of social preferences in the human neonate, pp. 103–117,in The Human Neonate in Parent-Infant Interaction.Ciba Found. Symp. 33, Amsterdam.

  23. Mattei, L. 1901. Lasensibilita nei fanciulli in rapportoal sessoedall'eta.Arch. Psichiatr. 22:207.

  24. McBurney, D.H., Levine, J.M., andCavanaugh, P.H. 1977. Psychophysical and social ratings of human body odor.Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 3:135–138.

  25. Mehrabian, A. 1972. Nonverbal Communication. Aldine, Chicago.

  26. Mertl, A.S. 1975. Discrimination of individuals by scent in a primate.Behav. Biol. 14:505–509.

  27. Moncrieff, R.W. 1951. The Chemical Senses. Hill, London.

  28. Montagner, H., andHenry, J.Ch. 1974. Vers une biologie du comportement de l'enfant. Revue des Questions Scientifiques, Bruxelles.

  29. Russell, M.J. 1976. Human olfactory communication.Nature 260:520–522.

  30. Schneider, R.A. 1974. Newer insights into the role and modifications of olfaction in man through clinical studies.Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 237:217–223.

  31. Shehadah, N., andKligman, A.M. 1963. The bacteria responsible for axillary odour.J. Invest. Dermatol. 41:3.

  32. Watson, O.M. 1970. Proxemic Behaviour. Mouton, The Hague.

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Schleidt, M., Hold, B. & Attili, G. A cross-cultural study on the attitude towards personal odors. J Chem Ecol 7, 19–31 (1981). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00988632

Download citation

Key words

  • Axillary odor
  • nonverbal communication
  • human body odor