Adult-like odor preferences and aversions in three-year-old children

Child Dev. 1988 Aug;59(4):1136-43.


Previous studies of young children have failed to demonstrate adult-like odor preferences in children less than 5 years old. To test whether these results may have been due to inappropriate methods or to stimulus sets that were too limited in range to capture discriminations, a forced-choice procedure embedded in a simple game was used to contrast 3-year-olds' (n = 16) and adults' (n = 17) hedonic reactions to 9 odorants. Subjects indicated liking an odor by pointing to one puppet and disliking an odor by pointing to another puppet. Analyses revealed essentially the same pattern of preferences in both groups. In general, the odorant was a much better predictor of its hedonic quality than was the age of the subject. However, children and adults did differ in their ratings of some odors, and response patterns indicated that children may be more sensitive than adults to some odorants (e.g., the steroid androstenone). These data indicate that the predominant view that adult-like odor preferences and aversions do not exist until between 5 and 7 years of age must be reevaluated.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Androstenes
  • Child, Preschool
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Male
  • Odorants*
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Smell


  • Androstenes