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Repeatability of odour preferences across time

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Craig Roberts, Jan Havlicek, Emerita Professor Marion Petrie


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Human body odour is often associated with negative attributions, hence the term ‘malodour’. Another perspective is that odours contain biologically meaningful information involved in communication of social cues, notably in perception of suitable mates. This evolutionarily informed perspective indicates that we retain capacity to infer mate quality through olfaction (e.g. preferring odours of high-quality or genetically compatible individuals). From either perspective, knowing the extent to which body odour is stable over time is important: either in order to fully understand how perfumes might interact with body odour or whether the biological cues gained from odour are reliable. In addition, from the second perspective, odour-based mate preferences should also be relatively stable over time, especially if both traits and preferences are genetically influenced. Here we measured repeatability in young women of body odour preferences for male odours, over a 3-month period. We also compare stability of body odour preferences with that of preferences for faces and fragrances. We find that preferences for all stimuli were highly repeatable over time. Since the odour stimuli used were repeated samples from the same set of men, repeatability of preferences also indicates odour constancy of individuals over time. Our results on both odour constancy and repeatability of preference have implications for the perfume industry and also lend weight to the assumption that body odour constitutes a meaningful cue of quality that can be used in individual assessment during human interactions. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Roberts SC, Havlicek J, Petrie M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Flavour and Fragrance Journal

Year: 2013

Volume: 28

Issue: 4

Pages: 245-250

Print publication date: 01/07/2013

Online publication date: 07/01/2013

Acceptance date: 27/11/2012

ISSN (print): 0882-5734

ISSN (electronic): 1099-1026

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


DOI: 10.1002/ffj.3142


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Funder referenceFunder name
058394Wellcome Trust
P407/10/1303Czech Science Foundation
UNCE 204004Charles University Research Centre