Smells like cooperation? Unpleasant body odor and people's perceptions and helping behaviors


  • The first author is a doctoral fellow of the Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology in Flanders (IWT). This work was supported by STRT1/10/013TBA from the Research Fund of the KU Leuven.


Scents are omnipresent in our daily world and they are of great importance as represented by the use of perfumes or fragrances in the work environment. Even though it has been argued that bad scents invoke negative judgments, we argued and demonstrated that a bad body odor elicits feelings of pity in others (Experiment 1) and increases prosocial behavior (Experiment 2). Further, we showed that only if a person is not held accountable for his own body odor this elevated other's prosocial behavior (Experiment 3). These findings provide a novel perspective on the way human body odor affects our perceptions and consequent behaviors.