Using smell to solve crime

A group of researchers from University of Aveiro in Portugal decided to test scent. The team showed videos of violent crimes to 40 student participants while asking them to take a whiff of a body odor sample taken from the armpits of a donor. Afterward, the students were given five different smelly glass jars and asked to try to ID the B.O. they had sniffed earlier.

They were successful 75 percent of the time—a significant increase from the 45 to 60 percent accuracy rate of the eyewitness lineup. It’s not clear why smell made such a difference in the experiment, although the researchers believe it might have to do with negative emotions experienced at the same time as the encoding of the body odor.

Larry Kobilinsky, professor and chairman of forensic science at John Jay College, who was not involved in the study, believes researchers will have a hard time getting this technique into the courtroom.