MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why People Are Seemingly Immune To Their Body Odor

How is that so many otherwise sensitive people expose others to their less-than-stellar body odor? I mean, surely they have to know that they, or their clothes, aren’t up to snuff, right? Right?

Compared to most animals, humans don’t have an acutely developed sense of smell. The human olfactory nerve easily becomes fatigued in areas where there are strong odors. So, in order for your brain to not be overloaded with information, your nervous system decides not to even try being bothered by your own body odor unless it changes dramatically. Whether you regularly smell like a spring bouquet of daisies or last night’s leftover table scraps, you’re unlikely to notice, even if you’re sensitive to other people’s B.O.

This fatigue principle applies to a lot of our other senses. Workers at automobile factories learn to block out all the machinery sounds, which would otherwise drive them insane. Residents of Hershey, PA, stop noticing the smell of chocolate that permeates the entire town. There’s even a phenomenon where students often can’t discriminate the tastes of different dishes served in their school cafeterias. (Of course, that might be explained by the fact that all cafeteria dishes do taste alike, but we might need a government grant to solve why that mystery exists.)

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me a message via social media (@AndyWebbRadioVoice), or shoot me an email at [email protected].