Research to Sniff At
A review of some smelly research classics
Although scientists are still puzzled as to exactly how the sense of smell works (see "Rediscovery: The Essence of a Sniff," AIR 6:4), science libraries grow ever-richer in reports about smells and peoples reactions to them. Here is an arbitrary collection of ripe, evocative research.
"Does Smelling Granny Relieve Depressive Mood? Commentary on Rapid Mood Change and Human Odors," Stephen Black, Biological Psychology, vol. 55, 2001, 215-8. The author, who is at Bishops University, begs to differ with the conclusion reached in D. Chen and J. Haviland-Joness 1999 blockbuster report "Rapid Mood Change and Human Odors," which was published in Physiology and Behavior, vol. 68, pp. 24150. Black explains that:
They reported that underarm odor from certain donor groups produced an amelioration in mood. In their words, exposure to underarm odors for under 2 min led to significant, rapid, and small changes in the nonclinical depressive mood of the odor observers (p. 241). In particular, they concluded that exposure to underarm odors of older women, women, and older adults, led to a greater reduction in depressive mood than exposure to underarm odors of young men, men, and young adults (p. 248), a finding they called impressive (p. 248).
Black concludes that:
In summary, the use of an inappropriate method to assess mood, and the failure of underarm odors to produce a statistically significant decline in negative mood compared with placebo make a strong case against accepting the conclusions of Chen and Haviland-Jones (1999). Their experiment does not demonstrate that certain human odors relieve depressive mood. Your granny may be a wonderful person, but there is no evidence that smelling her will brighten your day!
"Organoleptic Analyses of Putrid Olfactory Stimuli," James W.
Johnston, Jr., Psychonomic
Bulletin, vol. 1, no. 2, 1967, p. 9.
"Investigation of Factors Responsible for the Development of Boar
Taint," J. Balol, E. Squires, and E.A. Gullett, Food
Research International, vol. 28, 1995, pp. 573-81.
"When a Rat Smells a Cat: The Distribution of Fos Immunoreactivity
in Rat Brain Following Exposure to a Predatory Odor," R.A. Dielenberg,
et al., Neuroscience, vol. 104, no. 4, 2001pp. 1085-97.
Smells, Various Human
"Beer and Garlic Sausage-Induced Halitosis: De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum,".
M.J. Winship, Journal of the American
Medical Association, vol. 235, no. 1, 1976, p. 88.
"Sweat in Schizophrenic Patients: Identification of the Odorous Substance,"
K. Smith, G.F. Thompson, and H.D. Koster, Nature,
vol. 166, 1969, pp. 398-9.
"The Biogenesis of Underarm Odour," C.L. Jones, The Biochemist,
February-March 1994, pp. 18-20.
"Farting as a Defence Against Unspeakable Dread," M. Sidoli,
Analytical Psychology, vol. 41, 1996, pp. 165-78. (NOTE: This paper
won the 1998 Ig Nobel Psychology
Prize -- see AIR
5:1 for details.)
"Changes in the Intensity and Pleasantness of Human Vaginal Odors
During the Menstrual Cycle," R.L. Doty, et al., Science,
vol. 190, 1975, pp. 1316-8.
"On the Fine Structure of the Stink Glands of the Fire Bug (Pyrrhocoris
apterus L., geocorisae). II. Report. The Exit Duct System and the Non-Glandular
Parts" [article in German], G. Stein, Zeitschrift fur Zellforschung
und Mikroskopische Anatomie, vol. 75, no. 3, 1966, pp. 501-16.
"It Smells Like a Dentist: The Patient Office Survey by
Dr. Jakob Rothlisberger, Langnau" [article in German], K. Venner, Schweizer
Monatsschrift fur Zahnmedizin, vol. 100, no. 10, p. 1250.
Smells, New York
"Vagueness Gridlocked -- A Map of the Smells of New York (December 1999 to January 2000)," E. Margolies, Performance Research, vol. 6, no. 2, Summer 2001, pp. 88-97.
© Copyright 2002 Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)