In what may come as bad news for obsessive cleaners, researchers in Portsmouth have demonstrated that families whose members wash infrequently are more closely bonded and less troubled than families who wash daily.
“We’ve ruled out a pheromone cause. It seems more to be the case that members identify with the signature of the family, the overall smell caused by each member,” says Associate Professor Ruben Trunnel, “The more one washes, the less a defining signature can be established. This leads to discomfort, distrust and dysfunction.”
While stinky families are not guaranteed to be cohesive, the smell factor does play an important part, says Professor Trunnel. He goes on to state that while many studies focus on smell and pheromones in terms of sexual relations, odour is more prominent and powerful in other social factors like identity, trust and acceptance.
“We can see, for example, when a child comes along, there is a level of adjustment as that child’s odour profile is added to the overall signature but, once it is accepted, removal of the scent is detrimental. Likewise, when a family member leaves or dies, it takes longer for families to grieve as the scent lingers in clothing and walls, ” he says, “We are looking now to see if there is any influence of smell in the workforce, such as your ability to get hired or get a raise, or how accepted you are in a team.”
The results highlight a need for families and societies in general to get back to their primitive roots, he goes on to say, to rediscover what it is to be a sociable human.
“I’m not advocating a lack of hygiene. Technology is having too much of an impact on our lives, and not always for the better. Returning to family values is being hindered by too many creature comforts.”