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Babies emit smell to get aggressively loyal moms and mellow dads, Israeli study says

The smell of a newborn boosts their chances of survival by making moms more aggressive and dad less aggressive, Israeli scientists have suggested in peer-reviewed research.

They were astounded to find that inhaling hexadecanal, a chemical that is sometimes emitted from the human skin, especially on the heads of newborns, has an entirely different effect on men and women.

The scientists say their experiment, newly published in Science Advances, is among the first to provide a direct link between human behavior and a single molecule picked up through the sense of smell.

A team from the Weizmann Institute of Science got volunteers to sniff oil, some of it with hexadecanal and some without. Hexadecanal is odorless, but the men who sniffed it became less aggressive than others who didn’t — while the women who sniffed it became more aggressive.

“We were really surprised,” Dr. Eva Mishor, lead author of the study, told The Times of Israel. “Our hypothesis was that it was a social cue that reduced aggression, but we didn’t expect it to cause a different reaction in men and women.

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