What is the world&039s 1 favorite scent? Vanilla, says new study

A new study by researchers from Sweden and the UK has found that people’s favorite scent in nearly a dozen different cultures is vanilla, closely followed by peach.

So was the sweaty smell of isovaleric acid universally considered the worst smell.

The study, conducted jointly by scientists from the University of Oxford and the Karolinska Institutet, was published in the journal Current Biology on April 4, 2022.

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Contrary to expectations, the authors write, “culture explained only 6% of the variance in the pleasantness ranking,” while personal taste explained 54%.

Mapping the word’s favorite scent

The study included 235 people from nine non-Western cultures, ranging from seri hunter-gatherers in Mexico to urban New Yorkers.

The rural participants, such as the Imbabura Quichua from Ecuador and the Mah Meri from Malaysia, mostly live in small villages.

Critically, many of these groups have very little experience with typically Western foods or flavors.

The other urban participants in the study were from Mexico City and the Thai city of Ubon Ratchathani.

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Odor preferences are similar across the globe despite different cultural backgrounds

The researchers asked participants to rank ten different smells according to how pleasant (or unpleasant) those smells were.

These odors included isovaleric acid (found in cheese and human sweat), caprylic acid (found in coconut oil), and galbazine (found in peanuts, grapes, and potatoes).

Other odors tested were phenethyl alcohol ( found in roses and olive oil), eugenol (found in cinnamon, clove and nutmeg) and vanillin (found almost exclusively in vanilla orchids).

The results were surprisingly consistent around the world.

Although individual preferences varied, the nine cultures studied showed broadly similar results in terms of which odors are perceived as pleasant or unpleasant.

Traditionally, said lead researcher Artin Arshamian, these preferences were considered cultural, but this study shows “culture has very little to do with it.”

Some scents were more more popular than others, in other words, regardless of the cultural background of the participants.

“Cultures around the world evaluate different smells in similar ways no matter where they come from,” said Arshamian.

Across cultures, vanilla was the favorite scent

Vanilla was the favorite scent among participants, closely followed by peach (as ethyl butyrate).

The worst odor tested was isovaleric acid, an acidic odor found in foods like cheese and apple juice, as well as human (foot) sweat.

Arshamian said that these findings may have distant roots in evolution: humans may find some smells more pleasant than others because those smells increased their chances of survival.

Similarly, people may have developed an aversion to odors that indicate mold, bacteria, etc.

As the authors write, these results show that “the perception of pleasant smell is largely independent of cultural factors,” such as local food source.

These preferences can also be predicted from the chemical properties of the odors themselves.

Around the world, the authors conclude, the “relative pleasantness” of fragrances seems to be equally strong.

“This is striking,” they write, and contradicts what would have been predicted from a cultural relativity perspective.”

Study : “The perception of pleasant smell is shared by all cultures.”Authors: Artin Arshamian, Richard C. Gerkin, Nicole Kruspe, Ewelina Wnuk, Simeon Floyd, Carolyn O’Meara, Gabriela Garrido Rodriguez, Johan N. Lundstrom, Joel D. Mainland and Asifa Majid. Published in: Current BiologyPublished date: 4. April 2022DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.02.062

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