Each of our senses plays a part in forming our attraction to our mates, but scent might be the strongest.
Studies have shown that women are highly attuned to smell — and for good reason. A study at the University of Bern in Switzerland found that women preferred the natural scent of a man (oh fine, his body odor!) who happened to be her best mating option — evolutionarily speaking. Basically, the more dissimilar a man and woman’s immune systems are, the better their odds for conceiving healthy, strong children. Women, it seems, are able to instinctively detect immunological differences via smell. It’s a concept known as major histocompatibility complex, or MHC.
However, things like soap, perfume, spicy food, and even the birth-control pill can get in the way of our natural nose guide. The pill interferes with a woman’s processing of pheromones, which can cause problems with her ability to sniff out the right guy. But, if you want to test your nose, don’t go renouncing the pill just yet: Instead, try taking a whiff of your man first thing in the morning and see how his scent appeals to you. What does your nose tell you?
You have a magnetic scent too. But forget Chanel No. 5. When it comes to attracting a mate, women need look no further than their own natural chemical makeups. A recent study from Florida State University asked men to rate the attractiveness of a female subject after spending a short interval of time with her. When the subject was ovulating, she was rated as more attractive and desirable than when she wasn’t ovulating. Apparently, men can pick up subconscious cues that alert them to a woman’s ovulation cycle, and their bodies instinctively respond by increasing their desire for mates who are most likely to be fertile.
However, the scent of an ovulating woman isn’t always deemed desirable. In the same study, it was found that some men were not attracted to the ovulating female subject; these men were in committed relationships, and they reported significantly less attraction to the subject when she was ovulating. Researchers theorize that this is because a man in a committed relationship “shuts off” his biological drive in an attempt to safeguard the relationship.
The commitment to monogamy goes way back: In the early days of humans, monogamy was important, at least during childbearing years. In order for his seed and child to survive, a father had to stay committed to his mate and help provide food and protection for his budding family. It was only after a child became older and able to walk and move skillfully that the man would feel free to pursue other mates and spread his seed. Thousands of years later, this commitment to monogamy and family ties are still in place, although women certainly no longer need a man to feed and protect them!
Of course, one’s relationship stability and happiness does not all come down to subconscious biological cues and ancestral ties to the wild. However, studies such as these help to better illuminate our relationships with one another and our connection to the past as well, and for this reason they will always be a valuable and interesting resource.
Source: Dr. Laura Berman