Wednesday, February 29, 2012

nosy motto

Study title/t-shirt slogan pictured in Auragie Nebulae, © Steve Cannistra

Avery Gilbert followed up on his recent post about a study linking body odor and personality with details of a study showing a connection between personality and sense of smell. The post and the study itself raise some really interesting questions (about the very idea of a "generally sensitive person," about empathy & smell, about rose-scented markers called Sniffin' Sticks), and I don't want to be reductive, but the most exciting thing to me about this study is the title: "Agreeable Smellers and Sensitive Neurotics." I feel like that should be the new banner for this blog! Or the motto for my life. I love it.

From the study's abstract (if you're at all interested, the study is worth a look--I'm no scientist, but I found it accessible):    
Significantly enhanced odor sensitivity in socially agreeable people, significantly enhanced trigeminal sensitivity [Gilbert describes this as "the hot in chili pepper"] in neurotic subjects, and a tendency for enhanced pain tolerance in highly conscientious participants was revealed. It is postulated that varied sensory processing may influence an individual's perception of the environment; particularly their perception of socially relevant or potentially dangerous stimuli and thus, varied with personality.
Gilbert's take: 
This is a well-executed and straightforward study: measure personality, measure sensory thresholds, and look for correlations. Therein lies the rub: correlations are just that—they do not prove causation. Nevertheless, the authors spend a lot of time editorializing for the idea that sensory thresholds determine the development of one’s personality. Perhaps. But the opposite case can also be made: that being considerate and empathic toward other people disposes one to develop more finely tuned sensory abilities. 
To reiterate my main takeaway:  
Could this title be any more perfect? Rejoice, Agreeable Smellers and Sensitive Neurotics! You are among friends. 

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