Films, books and music have long fantasised about the notion of love at first sight. But what about love at first whiff? For years scientists have been researching this phenomenon and have found that, when finding love, your nose, not your eyes may be your strongest guide.
The sniff test
Scientists say that the secrets to finding love may be lurking as close as your laundry basket – namely men’s sweaty t-shirts. In a recent study, several men were asked to wear the same t-shirt for two days, then submit them for a female sniff test. Asked which smelled best, most of the ladies chose the aromas of the men whose DNA least matched theirs.
The study showed that, like bloodhounds, we can sniff out people whose genetic makeup is more varied than ours, so we can breed stronger humans.
This behaviour is best seen in animals. Dogs sniff each other’s rear ends not simply to out of friendliness but to find out information about this new pooch from the odour it emits. One whiff and they can detect whether it is healthy or unhealthy, friend or foe. A study in 2006 showed they can even detect diseases like cancer in humans with remarkable accuracy just by nuzzling them.
Animals can smell when members of the opposite sex are excited or amorous thanks to their highly developed vomeronasal between their nose and mouth. That’s because they are believed to release pheromones into the air containing all sorts of information about their mood and health. Odour can also help them detect fellow pack-members.
The scent of love
It’s not just canines who hold these special powers. Ever since human pheromones were discovered in subjects’ underarms, perfume companies have been trying to create chemical love potions guaranteed to spark attraction and huge profits… without luck.
Their efforts are understandable. After all, ladies of child-bearing age rated a pleasing scent as top of their romantic wish list. In a 2002 survey conducted by researcher Rachel S. Herz, women ranked a “man’s smell” to be more important than “looks,” “voice” or even “how his skin feels” when it comes to finding love. It even beat “money” and “ambition”. By contrast, men cited “how a woman looks” and a “pleasant personality” as top of their dating criteria.
So next time you’re in an amorous clinch with a new partner, don’t forget to give him the “sniff test”.