So you think you’re pretty good at reading people? Well, imagine being able to guess a person’s personality from their body odor, or from their chronic halitosis! While that might sound like pure science fiction, it has lately become science fact. Several groups of researchers recently discovered that you can tell a lot about someone by their scent.
Of course, this might not be totally surprising. In a limited way, we can all make small guesses about each other based on what we smell.
Think of it this way. If you meet someone for the first time and they give off tremendous body odor, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that this person probably doesn’t pay much attention to their personal hygiene. Conversely, if someone wears perfume or cologne that smells really enticing, you might be inclined to be attracted to them (even if you later discover they’re a total jerk).
The same is pretty much true for chronic halitosis. Bad breath is dead giveaway that someone doesn’t take care of their teeth, or only tries to halfheartedly. After all, it isn’t that hard to get your hands on specialty breath freshening products that can quickly eliminate bacteria and neutralize odors.
If you’ve ever suffered from bad breath or body odor, you might want to check out a study that was recently released in the European Journal of Personality. Its authors, a trio of Polish psychologists, found that participants were able to guess a person’s personality simply by smelling them or an article of their clothing.
Here’s how it worked.
Personality experts from the University of Wroclaw and Opole University asked 60 volunteers to spend three days wearing plain white undershirts, the type you might buy in pack of three for five bucks.
Participants were instructed to sleep in the shirts and to avoid showering or wearing any scented products. After 72 hours, each item of clothing was packed into a bag and labeled with the volunteer’s number.
Here comes the fun part: organoleptic (or nose-based) testing. Researchers asked participants to take turns sniffing the contents of each bag. Individuals were instructed to state whether they thought a shirt’s owner was neurotic, extroverted, open to new experiences, agreeable and/or dominant.
The team then compared the guesses to the personality tests that each entrant took before joining the study. The results are raising a real stink in the scientific community.
Basically, researchers found that based on smell alone, people could identify certain personality traits with relatively good accuracy. Specifically, volunteers were best at detecting whether a person is extroverted, neurotic or dominant based on nothing more than a good whiff of BO.
In fact, the effect was even stronger across gender lines, meaning the opposite sex may be better than you think at gleaning your personality from the stink you give off.
This phenomenon could easily extend to smell of chronic halitosis. After all, how hard would it be for someone to deduce from your bad breath that you are lazy, careless or oafish? And even if you’re not any of those things, do you really want to risk being thought of that way?
By using specialty breath freshening products, you can eliminate chronic halitosis and improve the, uh, scent of your personality.
If you find yourself excessively worried by what other people think of your halitosis, consider this: a different study, this one appearing in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, found that your opinion of your own breath says a lot about you.
Based on testing, the authors concluded that people who acknowledge they have chronic bad breath (and really have it) are less likely to have mental illnesses than those who rave about having halitosis when they don’t have any.