Ideas issue of the New York Times Magazine, December 2006
Ideas issue of the New York Times Magazine, December 2006
by Scott Snyder, The Believer, June 2006
by Charles D'Ambrosio, The Believer, May 2006
Ideas issue of the New York Times Magazine, December 2005
Salon.com, February 2002 (core member of Surrealist movement, painter, poet, wife of Max Ernst and author of Between Lives: An Artist and Her World)
The New York Times Magazine, August 2001 (actor and playwright)
Time Out New York, January 1997 (on publicaton of A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again)

Questions For Piet Vroon

By John Glassie
(New York Times Magazine, August 1997)

Piet Vroon, late professor of psychology at Utrecht University in Amsterdam, wrote Smell: The Secret Seducer.

Q: Let's say we could cancel our sense of smell just to get through August in New York. Would you recommend it?

A: No. If you lose your sense of smell, you lose your emotional life. You don't smell your partner. Your memory of events becomes worse.

Q: You write about the power of pheromone-like substances in males. Can the smell of a man's armpit really be attractive to women?

A: Male armpit sweat contains substances that attract women and influence their moods. In one study, women on a committee were exposed to these substances while evaluating job applicants. They assessed the male candidates as more capable. In the past, young men would tuck handkerchiefs in their armpits while dancing and then give them to the girls. They didn't do that just for the fun of it.

Q: Research suggests that no smell is innately pleasant or unpleasant to humans, that all smell preferences have to be learned. Can that really be true?

A: It appears to be, with two exceptions: butter and corpses. Babies in all cultures like the smell of butter but not corpses. For babies, butter is the smell of milk, safety. Symbolically, it's the difference between life and death.