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The Scent of Friendship: High School Students Research the Mysteries of Human Odor Recognition

Poster presented at the 26th Annual Meeting of the Association for Chemoreception Sciences, Sarasota, FL, April 21-25, 2004.

S. Olsson, CSIP Fellow, Cornell University
J. Barnard, CSIP Teacher, Geneva High School
L. Turri, CSIP Teacher, Geneva High School

Though several studies have examined the effect of human odor on kin recognition and mate choice, few have focused on human odor recognition of familiar non-relatives. As part of a program designed to engage students in scientific research, 55 10th grade and Advanced Placement biology students researched, planned, and implemented a project to analyze the effect of odor on human recognition of close friends, gender, and self. Each student and friend of their choosing wore a T-shirt for 3 consecutive nights. During that time, subjects were controlled for exposure to extraneous perfumes, household odors, and other humans. The students were then asked to smell a series of shirts and evaluate them with respect to pleasantness. Students were also asked to identify the two shirts belonging to themselves and their friend, and determine the gender of each shirt. Results of this testing will be presented along with a discussion of its implications for human social behavior. This research is supported by the Cornell Science Inquiry Partnerships through Cornell University and NSF #0231913, #9979516, and #9618142.



Copyright 2006 CSIP, Cornell University