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Complexity level:
5
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Time required:
Additional time may be required to enlist participants and procure food items.
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None

Abstract

Who has a better sense of smell, males or females? Though there have been studies attempting to answer this question, findings have not been conclusive. This science fair project involves testing blindfolded participants of both genders for their ability to identify the scents of various food items, rate the intensity of the smell and its favorability.

Objective

The objective of this science project is to ascertain if there are gender differences in the ability to identify food smells, sensitivity to smell, and reaction to smell. You will collect and analyze data for signs of these gender differences.

Background

Though many studies have been conducted on gender differences in olfactory perception, the findings of these studies have been open to question. Females have typically been shown to have a higher sense of olfactory acuity than males, but some critics instead point to the fact that changes in hormonal levels may lead to females being more sensitive to odors, while others believe that males and females are attracted to different smells. In this experiment, besides having participants identify odors, they will be quantifying the intensity of the odors, along with each odour's favorability.

Scientific Terms

Olfactory perception, olfaction

Materials

  1. A minimum of 20 participants 10 males and 10 females
  2. Blindfolds
  3. Data sheet (provided below)
  4. Different food items (a minimum of 3). Examples of good food items for testing include
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Chocolate
  • Pickles
  • Cheese

Procedure

1. For best results, the experiment should be performed outdoors so that the food odors do not linger.

2. Test the participants one at a time.

3. The participants are to be blindfolded during the experiment.

4. Have participants test all food items.

5. Have each participant:

a. Identify the smell

b. Rate the level of intensity of the smell on a scale from 1-10.

c. Rate the favorability of the smell (Undesirable, neutral, desirable).

 

Food Item

Identifies Food Item Correctly

Level of odor intensity

1-10

Favorability of odor (Undesirable, neutral, desirable).

Males

       

Participant 1

       

Participant 2

       

Participant 3

       

Participant 4

       

Participant 5

       

Participant 6

       

Participant 7

       

Participant 8

       

Participant 9

       

Participant 10

       
         

Females

       

Participant 1

       

Participant 2

       

Participant 3

       

Participant 4

       

Participant 5

       

Participant 6

       

Participant 7

       

Participant 8

       

Participant 9

       

Participant 10

       
 

 

Discussion

Did you notice any difference between the sense of smell for males versus females? Are males able to detect as many different smells compared to females? Are they able to distinguish between the level of intensity?  Assuming that most human beings have the same olfactory capabilities, why would the sense of smell vary between individuals or the sexes? If there were an explanation based on the theory of  evolution, what would it be?

Make it Your Own

Try repeating the experiment with participants from different age groups. Observe if there are any noticeable differences.

References

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