An overseas study on people’s reactions to body odour has tapped into stereotypes of white versus blue collar workers, authoritarianism and even political leanings.
Writing in the journal Royal Society Open Science, Dr Jonas Olofsson and his colleagues in Stockholm University and the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study reportedly found that people with a higher distaste for sweat and other body odours tend to be more authoritarian and are more inclined to be right-wing in their political views.
“Authoritarian attitudes have been consistently linked to feelings of disgust, an emotion that is thought to have evolved to protect the organism from contamination,” they wrote.
“We hypothesized [sic] that body odour disgust sensitivity (BODS) might be associated with authoritarianism, as chemo-signalling is a primitive system for regulating interpersonal contact and disease avoidance, which are key features also in authoritarianism.”
In two concurrent studies, the researchers found that those with higher BODS – or a greater distaste for body odours – were more authoritarian by nature, while another associated study linked higher BODS with increased support for US President Donald Trump.
These findings suggest that biology may play a much greater part in our political views than anyone had previously realised.
However, they also raise questions around pre-determined likelihoods of taking up white collar or blue collar jobs.
If these findings are indeed true, then people may be more inclined to take a particular career path or operate a business in a particular field not because of their educational or cultural background, but simply due to their level of distaste for getting hot and sweaty on the job.
However, such knowledge could potentially be used to advantage employers seeking to attract particular character traits, enabling them to identify or weed out individuals who are inherently authoritarian.
Dr Olofsson did not respond to a request for comment.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.