Chemosensory Perception

, Volume 10, Issue 1–2, pp 23–30 | Cite as

Personality and Perceptions of Common Odors

  • Daniel ShepherdEmail author
  • Michael J. Hautus
  • Poutasi W. B. Urale



Common brain areas play a role in processing both personality and odor, while personality theory predicts that olfactory performance should vary according to personality traits. The Big Five model of personality is considered a gold standard measure but has yet to be directly applied in investigations linking personality and olfactory responses. Moreover, olfactory measures commonly used in personality studies are usually rudimentary sensory performance indices such as thresholds as opposed to higher-order perceptual and psychological metrics.


This cross-sectional study examined the relationship between comprehensive measures of personality and perceptual responses to odors. Personality was measured using a comprehensive test of the Big Five model of personality, while olfactory responses included identification, pleasantness, perceived intensity, and familiarity. Odors were presented using the Sniffin’ Sticks test.


Small to moderate correlations were noted between aspects of personality and response to odor, even after controlling for participant (N = 74) characteristics such as age and gender. Regression analyses indicated that, overall, odor familiarity co-varies the most with aspects of personality.

Conclusions and Implications

Responses to olfactory stimuli are moderated by specific personality dimensions. This finding is consistent with approach and avoidance motivational models of personality.


Olfaction Personality Big Five Sensory perception 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Sources of Funding

No external funding was obtained for the research.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

The procedures used in this study were approved by the University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee before data collection began. All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2008.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Shepherd
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Michael J. Hautus
    • 2
  • Poutasi W. B. Urale
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Public HealthAuckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyAuckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand

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