The smell of us – crowdsourcing human body odor evaluation


  • Marguerite Benony Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity, Paris Descartes University, 75014 Paris
  • Marianne Cardon Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity, Paris Descartes University, 75014 Paris
  • Arnaud Ferré MaIAGE, INRA, Université Paris-Saclay, 78350 Jouy-en-Josas
  • Jean Coquet DYLISS, INRIA-IRISA, Université de Rennes 1, Campus de Beaulieu, 35042 Rennes
  • Nathan Foulquier LaTIM, U1101 Institut National de a Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), CHRU Morvan, 2 Av. Foch, 29609 Brest
  • Florian Thonier U1151 Institut National de a Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), 75015 Paris
  • Lucas Le Lann ERI29, EA2216 Institut National de a Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), Université de Brest, Labex IGO, CHRU Morvan, 29200 Brest
  • Henry De Belly Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity, Paris Descartes University, 75014 Paris
  • Alexandre Evans Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity, Paris Descartes University, 75014 Paris
  • Aakriti Jain Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity, Paris Descartes University, 75014 Paris
  • Juan Manuel García Arcos Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity, Paris Descartes University, 75014 Paris
  • Jason Bland U1001 Institut National de a Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), 75014 Paris
  • Ian Marcus University of California, Riverside, CA 92521
  • Ariel B Lindner U1001 Institut National de a Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), 75014 Paris
  • Edwin H Wintermute U1001 Institut National de a Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), 75014 Paris



Wisdom of the Crowd, Smell, Odor, Olfaction, Senses, Perception, Preference


Human body odor is produced when sweat-secreted compounds are metabolized by bacteria present on the skin. The resulting volatile mixture is often negatively perceived, motivating the use of personal cosmetic deodorants. Yet body odor may also be positively perceived in some contexts, and is proposed to play a role in sexual attraction, kin identification and social bonding. Because only human smellers can report the hedonic qualities of body odor, their persceptions are a valualbe complement to modern GC-MS-based quantitative chemical measurements. Here we present a crowdsourcing framework that engages volunteer smellers to characterize human sweat samples. Our approach seeks to reward both the sweat donor and the smeller with a web-based graphical interface that is informative, interesting, and fun. 300 samples from 87 individual donors were scored by 93 smellers for intensity, pleasantness, and a variety of odor descriptors. Body odor intensity and pleasantness were determined to vary with age, gender, and self-reported deodorant use. Counterintuitively, deodorant use showed no effect on the perceived intensity of body odor, and was associated with a decrease in the perceived pleasantness. From these data, we determine the precision and dynamic range of the volunteer nose as a body odor evaluation instrument and estimate the scale of crowdsourcing effort that would be required to precisely quantify the public perception of body odors.


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How to Cite

Benony, M., Cardon, M., Ferré, A., Coquet, J., Foulquier, N., Thonier, F., Le Lann, L., De Belly, H., Evans, A., Jain, A., García Arcos, J. M., Bland, J., Marcus, I., Lindner, A. B., & Wintermute, E. H. (2016). The smell of us – crowdsourcing human body odor evaluation. Human Computation, 3(1), 161-179.