Odor Pleasantness Universals (04-06-22)

Arshamian and teammates determined that worldwide people tend to find the same odors pleasant to smell.  As they report, they “asked 225 individuals from 9 diverse nonwestern cultures—hunter-gatherer to urban dwelling—to rank . . . odorants from most to least pleasant. Contrary to expectations, culture explained only 6% of the variance in pleasantness rankings, whereas individual variability or personal taste explained 54%. Importantly, there was substantial global consistency, with molecular identity explaining 41% of the variance in odor pleasantness rankings. . . . Taken together, this shows human olfactory perception is strongly constrained by universal principles. . . . Our results demonstrate the perception of odor pleasantness is largely independent of cultural factors. . . and can be predicted from physicochemical properties of odorants. . . . Critically, we show there is a universal bedrock of olfactory perception shared among all people.”

Artin Arshamian, Richard Gerkin, Nicole Kruspe, Johan Lundstrom, Joel Mainland, and Asifa Majid.  2022.  “The Perception of Odor Pleasantness is Shared Across Cultures.”  Current Biology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2022.02.062