Illustration for article titled Every scientific study of armpit odors was wrong - until now

Have you ever wondered whether people's armpits have different odors depending on whether they're left-handed or right-handed? Or if certain armpit scents are more masculine than others? Some brave armpit science experts have the answers.


The field of armpit research - axilla research, if we're using proper scientific terminology - has one glaring flaw. The authors of the latest paper spotlighted on NCBI ROFL explain:

"Most studies on perception of human social odors in axillary sweat do not distinguish between samples from the right and left axillae."


It's like I can't even trust the field of armpit science anymore! After all, as the authors point out, a right-handed person might produce stronger odors in his right armpit because he uses that arm more, and vice versa for a left-handed person. Finally, these questions are being asked:

The aim of the present study was to test whether odor samples from the right and left axillae provided by right- and left-handed men were perceived differently by female raters. Participants were 38 males and 49 females, aged 19-35 years. Fresh odor samples (cotton pads worn underarm for 24 h) were evaluated for attractiveness, intensity, and masculinity, with left and right samples being presented as independent stimuli.

I'll admit I don't spend a lot of time smelling armpits, but I was unaware that attractiveness was really a legitimate goal for their odor. I figured "thankfully non-existent" was a more desirable state. But this isn't about my ignorance - what differences did the study find?

A side-related difference emerged in left-handers only (no difference in right-handers): The odor from the axilla corresponding to the dominant side (left) was rated more masculine and more intense than the other side (right). This effect was limited to the ratings of a restricted group of females, that is, those who did not take hormone-based contraception and were estimated to be in the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle.


So...women at the height of their reproductive cycle find the left armpit of left-handed people more masculine than the right one? I cannot wait for the evolutionary psychology paper explaining that.

The paper ends with a wonderfully passive-aggressive "You're welcome" to all future armpit researchers:

"In conclusion, future studies using axillary odor samples can consider left and right samples as perceptually equivalent stimuli when the participant samples are representative of the general population, which comprises relatively low proportions of left-handed men and spontaneously ovulating fertile women."


[via NCBI ROFL; image from NCBI ROFL via Flickr]

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