Women whiff men in sniff proficiency | Science News



Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


Women whiff men in sniff proficiency

11:17am, February 12, 2002

Women smell better than men, and it's not just the perfume. As is the case for many gender differences, hormones appear to be behind the general advantage women have when it comes to their ability to detect odors.

In a series of trials, a total of 36 volunteers tried to detect either a cherry-almond or a lemon-orange smell generated by gradually decreasing concentrations of specific chemical compounds. In initial smell-threshold tests, all participants exhibited comparable abilities to detect the odors.

During tests 3 months later, however, women of reproductive age showed vast improvements in their ability to detect progressively weaker odors after only a handful of exposures to those smells, say neuroscientist Pamela Dalton of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and her colleagues. In contrast, men failed to become more smell-sensitive, even after many exposures to the odors. The same was true for women past menopause and 8-to-10-year-old girls and boys,

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from this issue of Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content