Nancy Roman

Snow White and the Smelly Dwarfs

Psychology often smells a little fishy to me:

LiveScience reported a new study published in the European Journal of Personality – a study of human personality scents.  Yeah, scents, not sense.

The subjects wore plain white T-shirts for three nights, and were instructed to avoid fragrant products, smoking, drinking, and even smelly food.  Then other participants smelled the shirts, and rated the wearer on various personality traits (neurotic, submissive, etc.). And guess what? The smellers identified personality traits as accurately as someone who watched videos of the subjects’ behaviors.

This study (at least the superficial amount I read of it on the internet) didn’t exactly explain what various personalities smell like.  But I can make a pretty good guess.

Take, for example, these well-known personalities:

The famous "Heigh-Ho" sequence from ...

Image via Wikipedia

Yes, what personality traits could be more obvious than for those folks whose names actually tell you what they are? Of course, no one today goes around with a T-shirt that says “Obnoxious” – although that should be a requirement – especially in Texas, for example. But now that I know you can smell a personality, …well, it seems like a very handy skill.

So let’s use our seven dwarfs as a test.  (BTW, did you know that ‘dwarves’ is incorrect? It’s ‘dwarfs’ even though that looks weird. So this post is educational in ways other than olfactory.)

Sleepy:  I’m sure Sleepy smells like lavender and fresh sheets, and my big cat-hair-enhanced duvet.

Sneezy is easy. Smith Brothers cough drops.

Grumpy.  I had a boss once who was very grumpy. I didn’t mind though. I liked it better than the previous boss who was your best friend one day and worst enemy the next. Bipolar people are impossible to work for. Grumpy people are at least consistent. This grouchy guy smelled of Marlboros and Chinese Food. And he couldn’t sneak up on you either.

Bashful is very tricky. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what Shy smells like. When I was afraid, I used to hide in the back of my Grandma’s closet. It was dusty, with a faint aromatic mix of fur coats and old shoes. Maybe Bashful smells like that.

Happy probably has an essence of dark chocolate.

Dopey. I know some dopey creatures. They belong to my brother-in-law. Dopey must certainly smell like wet golden retrievers.

And finally, there’s Doc.  Why didn’t Doc get a name that denotes his personality type? My guess is because he named all the other guys. But Doc is logical and practical. He’s a genius. I’m a genius. And I smell like old lady perfume and freshly brewed coffee.

I’m interviewing right now for a job opening in my department.  I am thinking I can save a lot of time by skipping the lengthy probing questions. I’ll just smell the applicants.


  1. Cute post; perculiar psychological study: where do they come up with this stuff?


    • And they got paid to do it.


      • I was just sitting here thinking, “I could’ve followed this career path, but I paid six figures for law school? Good thinking, Deb!” Oy.


  2. Brillliant.


  3. RVingGirl

    Fabulous post! Very clever……I do think it only fair for you to keep us updated on the smell of your applicants. I would not hire, for example, one who may smell like gun powder…better to have the guy who smells like marijuana….at least he’ll be peaceful and happy.
    Now I have to wonder how I smell. My Dad always smelled like tweed coats and spice. Mom smelled like rosewater and peppermint.


  4. Fabulous.
    I imagine Doc smells like rubbing alcohol. And, bashful? Maybe a whiff of moldy wallpaper, faint but of the slight nose-wrinkling type. Dopey- the hint of ‘herb’ might seem natural here, as well.
    I’ve never thought about smells in this fashion but now I’ll be checking ’em out. Tonight! I’m having dinner with my mother at the Old Folks Home (as we call this classy condo living for seniors). Wonder what 90 smells like? She’s 77 but there are some 90 year olds there, shuffling around.


  5. You sure do have a creative mind. Chinese food and Marlboro cigarettes…too funny!


  6. I love this post! How clever of you. I am not sure what I smell like because I have multiple personalities but I would like to think I smell like….butterflies.


  7. Rich Crete

    After spending all day in my store I know I smell like birdseed. I’m sure that translates into bird-brained for personality.


    • Well, maybe a smart bird like a homing pigeon.


  8. How interesting! The study you wrote about reminded me of what I read years ago: a wife can be blindfolded and brought up to several men (who are not wearing any smelly aftershave, cologne, etc.), and she can pick which one is her husband… based entirely on his scent.
    ( I guess it’s easier for wives of guys named Grumpy….)
    Love the butterfly reference in the above comment!


  9. Eileen Eldred

    Ah-ha! Thank you! You see, I’ve been sniffing people for years, um, that came out wrong, I mean, I notice smells…mm, not right, either…oh, anyway, my hubby thinks I’m nuts (I am, but that’s not the point here!) because of my tendency to sniff. Bookstores, lovely paper & leather, kittens & newborns – a cloud-soft scent, impossible to describe, and hubby, even if he hasn’t showered, that slightly musky, man scent…And, some people just smell wrong. They want to shake hands or hug and I tense up. Turns out they’ve been lying or are fake friendly, etc. So, yep, thanks for validating my nose skills! (And for naming the seventh dwarf – Bashful.) 😀


  10. Sleepy would have smelled like bad breath! I fear I smell like cats but I know I am attracted to people who smell like puppies — kind of a sweet milk scent. It’s very effective especially if they have big brown eyes and floppy ears.


    • I’m a sucker for men with big brown eyes, but the floppy ears…not so much.


  11. While you can make good use of this new skill in your hiring decisions, do be careful about it. Don’t do it like my dog, Cooper, who immediately sticks his nose into a person’s butt. That would not look good on the court documents that would surely follow your decision NOT to hire one person over the other.

    And I think you hit it on what “Dopey” smells like. Cooper wet is an aroma to die for — I mean from. And even if he had thumbs, he just wouldn’t qualify as a brain surgeon OR a rocket scientist. Because he is truly dopey.


    • My BIL’s dogs, Sophie and Stella are very sweet, but overwhelmingly dopey.


  12. Good luck interviewing for your open position. That process alone should inspire a week’s worth of posts. Thank you also for teaching me the proper plural form of dwarf. Reading, even blogs, is very educational!


    • Most applicants so far smell like desperation. I feel for them and wish I could hire them all.


  13. I am still reeking of IcyHot after my injury last week. But I don’t usually smell like old people. Yet.


  14. I am in complete agreement. I have always said i would not date a man who I did not like the smell of. I certainly could not spend any quiet time with a smelly person. My animals are fed natural diets so even the smells in my barn are sweet. And now one of your other readers has asked the question what do I smell like. So I asked my husband “what do I smell like.” he looked at me, the dog looked at me and then husband said “What ARE you reading!”.. c


  15. LOL This post is as fascinating as it is creepy to me. And thank you for the tip about ‘dwarfs’!


  16. I laughed at this post. Especially when I imagined you smelling the applicants.


  17. Can’t wait to hear what scent you choose to hire. Always – such fun to read your words!!!


  18. I would love to be a fly on the wall and witness the reaction of your applicants when you ask them to raise their arms and then get real close to you so you can sniff them…I only hope your company has a great lawyer on retainer ’cause I’m sure there will be phone calls made! LOL. Great post…loved it!


  19. midsummerdreamsandwintertales

    This is a great post. What does Snow White smell like? Crisp winter day?


  20. Please let me know what failure smells like. That’s something I’d like to avoid if possible.


  21. What a great idea, hiring by scent.


  22. pharphelonus

    Will you reject applicants by telling them they don’t pass the sniff test?


  23. Brilliant. But, I’m afraid you got Happy wrong. He definitely smells like pepperoni pizza.


  24. wonderful imaginational journey… you’re pretty right on, I’d say, with the dwarFs… tho, I see Doc, more than smell him – William Windom Jessica’s friend in Cabot’s Cove – now there’s a place with a snifsensory image – fish, fish, fish, wet ropes and wet sweaty fisherfolk-wear (rubber, I guess)…
    I used to be a phone psychic (yeah really and a LOOOONG story), I remember one caller was trying to get around to why she had issues with her boyfriend… suddenly I smelled rubbing alcohol, mentioned alcohol asked if one of them worked in a hospital, and we were both a bit shocked – she’s a nurse and they both drank way too much… anyway, scents, aromas are said to be one of the strongest memory connectors we have… that’s why aromatherapy, etc is so popular – even the room freshener people are doing it!!! love your posts!!!🙂
    — apologies if I’ve missed a post that says, but I wonder what position you are hiring for and do you have preconceived aromas that would be best suited for that individual? I’ve done plenty of interviewing and hiring and never tried that – I should have!!!🙂


  25. Like your approach.



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