Anthony Lee—Getty Images/Caiaimage
May 30, 2014 12:44 PM EDT

It’s been known for awhile that pleasant odors can lead to a higher perception of appearance, but what’s unknown is whether odor influences the actual visual perceptions of facial features. Like whether a person has more wrinkles and blemishes.

To test this, researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center had 18 young adults rate the attractiveness of eight images of female faces that had varying levels of aging.

When the participants were rating the images, one of five odors was released. The worst order was a mixture of fish oil, and the most pleasant smell was rose oil. The middle smells were along a spectrum between the two.

The results show that the way the participants visually perceived the women was strongly influenced by what odor they were smelling. When they smelled something pleasant, they rated the older looking faces as younger, and the younger faces as even younger. That was not the case with bad smells. Older and younger faces were perceived as similar in age.

The study, which is published in the journal PLOS ONE, was clearly quite small so more research is needed before any definite conclusions are drawn. But it’s Friday, and come on, this is interesting.


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