Street Scents: NYers Love Vanilla, Hate Sweaty Socks

Friday, Mar 26, 2010  |  Updated 3:10 PM EDT
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Street Scents: NYers Love Vanilla, Hate Sweaty Socks

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People in lift holding noses, one woman smiling

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From mystery odors to smelly fish markets, New Yorkers are constantly bombarded with the aromas of urban life.

Rockefeller University researchers spent five years creating a "smell demography'' of metropolitan New York City to sniff out what New Yorkers think is noisome or nice.

Researcher Leslie Voshall detailed the findings at a conference Friday on how odors affect New Yorkers' daily experiences.

The study found that the best smellers (that is, people who have the best ability to discern different scents) are young female non-smokers. They also found that different races prefer different smells: for example Caucasians find nutmeg more pleasant than African-Americans do, while African-Americans find sandalwood more pleasant than Caucasions do.

Regardless of race, gender or age, however, New Yorkers' least favorite smell is sweaty socks -- and the Big Apple's favorite smell is apparently vanilla.

City smells sometimes have soured relations between New York and New Jersey -- In the past, the Garden State has been blamed for all manner of mystery stenches -- not to mention a lovely maple-syrup odor that has from time to time wafted over parts of Manhattan and Staten Island.

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