People around the world like the same kinds of smells
Apr 2022, phys.org
Odor preference is molecular. People share odor preferences regardless of cultural background. Traditionally it has been seen as cultural.
First of all, the thumbnail for this article, of the girl smelling the flower in profile view, is used every time a smell article comes up on phys.org.
Girl Smelling a Flower in Profile - Petr Kratochvil
So I ran it through the Stable Diffusion library at lexica.art, "girl smelling a flower in profile," and got top image above, what I'll call "Woman Eating a Flower by William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Gustav Klimt" [link]
Second of all, look that the list of collaborators here -- this is not your average smell study:
Department of Clinical Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet, School of Life Sciences at Arizona State, Centre for Languages and Literature at Lund, Department of Anthropology at University College London, Colegio de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador, Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, School of Languages and Linguistics at University of Melbourne, Monell Chemical Senses Center, Department of Neuroscience at University of Pennsylvania (Asifa Majid as corresponding author)
Many of the researchers are field workers working with indigenous populations. For this present study, the researchers selected nine communities representing different lifestyles: four hunter-gatherer groups and five groups with different forms of farming and fishing. Some of these groups have very little contact with Western foodstuffs or household articles."Since these groups live in such disparate odiferous environments, like rainforest, coast, mountain and city, we captured many different types of 'odor experiences'," says Dr. Arshamian.
The study included a total of 235 individuals, who were asked to rank smells on a scale of pleasant to unpleasant. The results showed variation between individuals within each group, but global correspondence on which odors are pleasant and unpleasant. The researchers showed that the variation is largely explained by molecular structure (41 percent) and by personal preference (54 percent).
^One other study measured about 30% difference between any two people, this now says 54%, just keeping track.
The odors the participants were asked to rank included vanilla, which smelled best. This was followed by ethyl butyrate, which smells like peaches. The smell that most participants considered the least pleasant was isovaleric acid, which can be found in many foods, such as cheese, soy milk and apple juice, but also in foot sweat.
I think we knew vanilla was the universally liked odor, but this study is likely more reliable.
via Karolinska Institutet, University of Oxford, Lund University, Stockholm University, University College London, Arizona State University, Monell Chemical Senses, Universidad San Francisco de Quito (Ecuador), University of Melbourne, and National Autonomous University of Mexico: Artin Arshamian, Richard C. Gerkin, Nicole Kruspe, Ewelina Wnuk, Simeon Floyd, Carolyn O’Meara, Gabriela Garrido Rodriguez, Johan N. Lundström, Joel D. Mainland, Asifa Majid, The perception of odor pleasantness is shared across cultures, Current Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.02.062
AI Art - Emma Watson in a Tunic Holding a Flower by Rubens - 2022
Emma Watson wearing green tunic holding a flower. Painted by Rubens, high detail [link]
(Personal opinion not backed by science) I think cultural influence on odor preference only works for bad smells, and specifically the "quantum hedonic" smells like parmesan cheese, kimchi, durian fruit, etc. That's where the signal is for cultural influence (and if put in the same dataset as vanilla and peaches would get lost).