Manipulation of body odour alters men's self-confidence and judgements of their visual attractiveness by women

Int J Cosmet Sci. 2009 Feb;31(1):47-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2494.2008.00477.x.


Human body odour is important in modulating self-perception and interactions between individuals. Artificial fragrances have been used for thousands of years to manipulate personal odour, but the nature and extent of influences on person perception are relatively unexplored. Here we test the effects of a double-blind manipulation of personal odour on self-confidence and behaviour. We gave to male participants either an aerosol spray containing a formulation of fragrance and antimicrobial agents or an otherwise identical spray that lacked these active ingredients. Over several days, we found effects between treatment groups on psychometric self-confidence and self-perceived attractiveness. Furthermore, although there was no difference between groups in mean attractiveness ratings of men's photographs by a female panel, the same women judged men using the active spray as more attractive in video-clips, suggesting a behavioural difference between the groups. Attractiveness of an individual male's non-verbal behaviour, independent of structural facial features, was predicted by the men's self-reported proclivity towards the provided deodorant. Our results demonstrate the pervasive influence of personal odour on self-perception, and how this can extend to impressions on others even when these impressions are formed in the absence of odour cues.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Odorants*
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Desirability*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult