Study Shows That Children Are More Accepting To Strangers in the Presence of Their Mothers’ Odors

A study at the Interdisciplinary Center, Israel, found that the likelihood of babies accepting an unfamiliar woman is higher in the presence of their mothers’ odor. The research aimed to understand if a baby’s connection to their mother was in part due to smell.

How researchers conducted the experiment 

The team gathered 62 women with babies aged about seven months. They also found female participants with no children of the same ages as the mothers. Before they began the experiment, they told the mothers to sleep in one t-shirt for two nights. The mothers were to carry the shirts with them for the lab experiment.

While in the lab, the team put electrodes on the babies and mothers to measure their brain waves as they sat facing each other and then back. Afterward, the babies faced an unfamiliar woman with an electrode cap as they held a t-shirt. Some of the t-shirts were new, while others belonged to their mothers.

Babies responded better to unfamiliar faces when they held their mothers’ t-shirts

The researchers analyzed the results and found higher synchrony of brain waves as the mother and child sat facing each other than away from each other. Moreover, the babies who held their mothers’ t-shirts had similar synchrony to when the mother and baby sat facing each other.

The babies with new t-shirts, on the other hand, had lower synchronicity. Moreover, the babies were more likely to gaze and smile at the unfamiliar woman if they held their mothers’ t-shirts.

The team concluded that the mothers’ body odor helped them bond with their babies. In addition, this can be leveraged to help children bond with strangers.

The odor of their mothers seems to function as a safer signal for bakes. Previous studies have found that babies can recognize their mothers’ smell. Moreover, the scent helps soothe them if in pain.

A mother’s smell can help babies communicate, adapt to new places, and transition to social groups. For this reason, having a toy or baby blanket which carries their mother’s scent can help a baby adapt to new places.

Another study at the Weizmann Institute of Science found that the smell of newborns increased aggression in women but reduced it in men.

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