Psychology of Fragrance Use: Perception of Individual Odor and Perfume Blends Reveals a Mechanism for Idiosyncratic Effects on Fragrance Choice
´ ´ ´ Pavlına Lenochova1, Pavla Vohnoutova1, S. Craig Roberts2, Elisabeth Oberzaucher3, Karl Grammer3, 1 ´ˇ Jan Havlıcek *
1 Department of Anthropology, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, 2 School of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom, 3 Department of Anthropology, University Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Cross-culturally, fragrances are used to modulate body odor, but the psychology of fragrance choice has been largely overlooked. The prevalent view is that fragrances mask an individual’s body ...view middle of the document...
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Funding: The study was supported by Grant Agency of Charles University (GAUK 55108/2008), Czech Science Foundation (GACR P407/10/1303) and Czech Ministry of Education grant 0021620843. The authors are also very grateful for a material donation provided by the Yves Rocher, Optimum Distribution CZ & SK and Fann Parfumery. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Competing Interests: Yves Rocher, Optimum distribution CZ & SK and Fann Parfumery provided a material donation to this study. There are no patents, products in development or marketed products to declare. This does not alter the authors’ adherence to all the PLoS ONE policies on sharing data and materials, as detailed online in the guide for authors. * E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Odors are highly potent in affecting various domains of human psychological functioning, ranging from perception and mood to cognitive processes and behavior. Recent studies suggest that odors could be effective even at concentrations below conscious levels. For example, subthreshold ambient ‘sweet’ odors increase pain tolerance , while a common detergent perfume changes spontaneous cleaning behavior . Further, results of recent studies suggest that odors can affect judgments of faces at both supra-threshold  and subliminal levels . The last two studies are of particular importance as they indicate that odors can be involved in various social judgments, interactions and behavior. Indeed, the widespread use of fragrances in human societies may serve this same purpose. Fragrance use is neither a recent phenomenon nor specific to western cultural settings, as historical records from ancient Egypt (and then later from ancient Greece and Rome) suggest that people commonly modified their body odor with a variety of odorous substances . Numerous anthropological observations also point out that people of highly diverse cultures tend to manipulate their body odor in this way, suggesting that fragrance use is a near universal human phenomenon . Furthermore, data on the still growing income of the cosmetics industry suggest that in modern times this is not an issue of marginal significance. For
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instance, and irrespective of various economic turnovers, estimated total sales in the fragrance and flavor industry rose from $12.9 billion in 1999 to $22 billion in 2010 . Although fragrances appear to be used to rid the body of its underlying odor, growing evidence indicates that body odor plays a significant role in various social interactions and can carry important biological messages. To take just two examples: newborns are able to find their...