Women get a similar pleasure from the smell of newborn babies as they do from chocolate.
In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, 30 "healthy, right-handed, nonsmoking women" were subjected to an ear-nose-throat examination and a 12-item sniff test to be sure their sense of smell was working. Half of the women had given birth within the past three to six weeks; half were not moms.
Meanwhile, the researchers collected body odors contained in cotton undershirts from 18 newborn infants. The babies slept in the undershirt their first two nights, then the shirts were collected and sealed in zip-lock bags and placed in deep freeze to preserve the odors. They were thawed an hour before testing.
The research showed that the reward center that lights up for chocolate and other pleasures also lights up for the smell of a newborn baby. It didn't make a difference whether the woman had recently given birth or not.
Wrote Lori Aratani of The Washington Post: "Researchers weren’t sure what the scent was. 'We think it consists of roughly 250 chemicals,' said Johan Lundstrom, an associate professor at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. 'We think it gives moms the urge to take care of their infants.' Researchers also suggested that the babies’ body odor might also convey cues that can motivate a woman to care for a child even if the baby isn’t her own. The study did not include men, so no word on how the smell affects them."
Last summer, researchers from Belgium's Hasselt University found that the pleasurable smell of chocolate may be utilized in entirely different ways. According to a Huffington Post article, "The study was conducted over 10 days at a local bookstore, during which the store smelled like chocolate for half of its business hours. Researchers analyzed the behavior of every fifth customer that entered the store — a total of 201 patrons — and found that customers were twice as likely to look at more than one book when the store smelled like chocolate.
"The key finding? Overall book sales increased as well, and sales for certain kinds of books, such as romance and food-related books, increased by about 40 percent," the article said.
That study was published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.1 comment on this story
An article in the Daily Mail noted that during the 10 days of the experiment, more than 20 percent of books sold were food and drink or romance novels or history books and crime thrillers.
"Sales in the first two categories rose by 40 percent when the scent was dispersed, whereas sales in the second two categories increased by just over a fifth when the scent was absent. But the smell of chocolate seemed to move customers away from the history and crime thriller section," it said.
The newborn/chocolate smell study's researchers were from Philadelphia; Stockholm, Sweden; Dresden, Germany; Dijon, France; and Montreal, Canada.
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