Q: People may treat a man differently if he has body odor, but only if they're close up, right?
A: Wrong. Body odor can significantly affect how a man behaves and feels about himself, even if no one is close enough to smell him.
A study of college students at Liverpool University was published in 2009 (link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19134127) in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, examining the effect of body odor on self-confidence, self-rated attractiveness, and attractiveness to the opposite sex.
35 heterosexual non-smoking male students were recruited from Liverpool University.
Participants were informed that the study was on deodorant use and behavior, but did not know anything more than that.
On Session 1, all participants did surveys to determine how self-confident they were, and how attractive they felt to women. They were then sent home.
On Session 2 (one day later), participants were separated into two random groups.
Group 1 received a normal spray-on deodorant.
Group 2 received a spray-on deodorant with the active scent and anti-microbial components removed. This is a “placebo” deodorant that has no effect on body odor.
All participants were instructed to spray on the deodorant, and then wait 15 minutes (for any initial scent effect to wear off).
Then, participants did the survey again (of self-confidence and self-rated attractiveness to women).
All participants were told to replace their normal deodorant with the experimental deodorant they had been given, for the next 48 hours.
This gives the “placebo” group plenty of time to develop body odor.
On Session 3 (two days after Session 2), all participants did the surveys again.
THEN, all participants made a video of themselves.
Participants were given a room and a video camera and were told to imagine introducing themselves to an attractive woman – and to videotape it.
Then, still photos were taken of each participant's face, with a neutral facial expression.
Then, the videos and photographs were rated by a panel of 8 female judges (who were unaware of the purpose of the experiment).
The women rated how attractive the facial photographs were.
The women then rated how confident and attractive the men in the videos were (with and without sound).
At first, both groups rated around the same on self-confidence and self-rated attractiveness. However, over time, those using the “placebo” deodorant rated themselves as significantly less confident and significantly less attractive. By the third session, the “body odor” group was rating themselves the least attractive of all.
When the women rated the photographs:
- There was no difference between the ratings of facial attractiveness between the two groups.
However, when women rated the videos:
- Those in the “body odor” (placebo) group were rated as significantly less attractive AND significantly less confident than those in the regular deodorant group.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
- Body odor caused the men in the study to lose confidence in themselves and view themselves as less attractive.
- Even though the women couldn't smell the men (they were watching a video), they could pick up on this decrease in self-confidence and even rated the “smelly” men as less attractive!
- The difference in confidence and attractiveness wasn't in the appearance of the men (because there wasn't a significant difference between the attractiveness of the facial photos). It was communicated through their behavior in the videos.
Roberts, S., Little, A. C., Lyndon, A. A., Roberts, J. J., Havlicek, J. J., & Wright, R. L. (2009). Manipulation of body odour alters men's self-confidence and judgements of their visual attractiveness by women. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 31(1), 47-54. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19134127