Researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) stumbled upon an interesting realization while examining how people reacted to the packaging of fragrances: Women are very guarded over their perfume choices around female friends.
The study began innocently, looking at how 146 women between the US and the Netherlands chose fragrances to buy with a focus on if they are more likely to buy fragrances with packages that match (they aren’t). But while they were examining this, they noticed that the purchasing behavior of women towards women wasn’t what they expected.
"When women like a fragrance, they will purchase it for themselves or a male friend, but not for a female friend," said BYU industrial design professor and study coauthor Bryan Howell. "When they dislike a scent, they won't purchase it for themselves or their boyfriend, but they will buy it for a female friend. It was a very strange finding so I had to go back and dig deeper."
The question men have been asking about women since the dawn of time
If you’re reading this article and thinking, “Well obviously,” Howell agrees, but added that he and the other male lead author were surprised and fascinated to have such a topic blossom in an academic research experiment.
The researchers then decided to interview 12 of the subjects so as to add qualitative layers to their research: Why do women behave like this?
"Women treasure fragrances as a vital pillar of their personal identity," explained Howell. "They may use the same fragrance for many years, and some women keep their fragrance choice a secret so their friends won't wear it."
BYU public relations major Ashley Lindenau added, "You wouldn't buy perfume you like for a friend because then they would smell like you. That's a little too creepy."
Further, the women felt that by giving another woman perfume, they were signaling they thought she smelled bad. Men were a different story, however.
"While women hold fragrances as personally intimate and respect other women's intimate choices, they happily want to influence what fragrances men wear," Howell said. "Assuming it is for a spouse or boyfriend, they want to pick fragrances they also like since they'll be around that person often."
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