Sex Differences in Olfactory Behavior in Namibian and Czech Children

Abstract

Sex differences in olfaction are well-established, but explanations for those sex differences remain incomplete. One contributing factor could be individual- or cultural-level differences in exposure to odors. We tested whether frequent engagement with common sources of domestic odors (cooking, domestic animals, siblings) was linked to individual differences in olfactory reactivity and awareness among children in southern Namibia and also compared study populations in southern Namibia and the Czech Republic using the established Children’s Olfactory Behavior in Everyday Life (COBEL) questionnaire. We did not find any effects of engagement with odor sources on olfactory behavior, but our results were consistent with usual olfactory sex differences in that girls scored higher than boys in measures of olfactory reactivity and awareness. Further, among the Czech children (but not among the Namibian children), odor identification abilities were positively linked to COBEL scores. Our data contribute to the literature that finds that sex differences in olfactory awareness are apparent across a diverse range of cultures and age groups.

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Acknowledgments

Thanks to the participants, teachers, and schools who enabled this research and to Camille Ferdenzi and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and assistance. JH and LN are supported by the Czech Science Foundation (GAČR 14-02290S) and Charles University Research Centre (UNCE 204004).

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Details of institutional ethical approval for the research, and ethical procedures followed, are given in the Procedure section. Informed consent was obtained from all participants for being included in the study.

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Correspondence to Tamsin K. Saxton.

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Saxton, T.K., Martinec Nováková, L., Jash, R. et al. Sex Differences in Olfactory Behavior in Namibian and Czech Children. Chem. Percept. 7, 117–125 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12078-014-9172-5

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Keywords

  • Children
  • Cross-cultural
  • Olfaction
  • Olfactory behavior
  • Sex differences