Scientists are now claiming that people who dislike the smell of other people’s body odours are likely to be ‘racist.’
In a study across nine countries, scientists have linked a repulsion to sweat, bad breath and smelly feet with a heightened disliking for foreigners.
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Steering clear of horrible smells is a natural mechanism that helps us avoid illnesses, experts at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm explain.
But when working into overdrive, this may trigger hostility towards refugees who they suggest can be perceived as having ‘dissimilar’ hygiene habits.
Dailymail.co.uk reports: ‘Individuals more easily disgusted by body odours are also more prone to having negative attitudes towards refugees,’ the scientists wrote.
‘As in previous work prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, this relationship was partially explained by the perceived dissimilarity of the outgroup in norms relating to basic practices such as food preparation and hygiene.’
Nearly 7,000 participants took part in the study which examined opinions across the UK, New Zealand, Canada, Nigeria, Kenya, Hong Kong, Chile, Italy and Sweden.
When assessing body odour sensitivity, participants were asked to rank scents on a one-to-five scale of perceived disgustingness.
Human smells like sweat, urine, feet, gas, breath, upper body sweat and faeces were included in the survey.
These were incorporated into different scenarios such as: ‘You are alone at home and notice that your feet smell strongly’, and ‘you are sitting next to and notice that their feet smell strongly’.
A fictional scenario was then used to assess attitudes towards a fictional group known as the ‘Drashnean refugees’.
Researchers posed a situation in which the Drashnean group from Eastern Africa or Eastern Europe had been experiencing a ‘great deal of civil unrest in the recent years’.
They explained: ‘As a result of these conditions, many people from this country are trying to leave.
‘A large number of these refugees are seeking to immigrate to your country.’
Participants then answered numerous questions about the group, taking into account food, hygiene and sanitary practices.
One question asked how much they ‘agree that Drashneans could bring health-related problems’ into the country, while another looked at potential criminality.
The results revealed that the participants who scored highly for sensitivity to disgusting smells were more likely to have negative attitudes towards migrants.
Experts claim that their results support ‘a theoretical notion of how pathogen avoidance is associated with social attitudes’.
They said: ‘This main finding was observed in a diverse sample from nine countries across the globe and was similar for attitudes toward refugees from Eastern Africa and Eastern Europe.
‘Our results support the theoretical notion that traditional norms provide protection against pathogens and that outgroups are viewed negatively in part because they are viewed as challenging these norms.’