Does Our Sense of Smell Choose Our Partners or Does our Sense of Sight Rule?
How does our sense of smell come into play when dating? Interestingly enough, they have done research on scent and selection. What is the science behind it? Does our sense of smell choose our partners? It seems it plays a part in selection.
An experiment done in 1995 regarding “sweat and body odor” to see if the Olfactory senses were part of the attraction between two people desiring a romantic connection. The T-shirt experiment had 49 women and 44 men. The men wore the T-shirt for nights and returned them. The women had to do the scent test with each t-shirt in a box with a hole in it and rate it on intensity, pleasantness, and sexiness.
The theory was that our olfactory sense was part of our choice of mates. Do women choose a partner based on scent, and why? They based this on the scientific study on one type of gene choice in mating. Turns out women choose men based on their scent that had the opposite gene. Which would mean a better genetic match for procreating continued healthy offspring. In this study, it’s true regarding the sense of smell that opposites attract. It produces healthier offspring. Not necessarily healthy relationships.
The exception to this however is with women on birth control pills the opposite is true. Since birth control pills trick the body into thinking it is pregnant is more likely to choose those with similar genes.
”A 2008 paper published in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that while women are usually attracted to the scent of men who are genetically different from them, women on the Pill are attracted to the scent of men who are more genetically similar. This may be because the Pill fools your body into thinking it’s pregnant, and pregnancy can affect attraction. In discussing the 2008 study, Scientific American hypothesized that while non-pregnant women would be more attracted to genetically dissimilar men (to avoid the possibility of incest and maximize immunity of their offspring,) women on the Pill may be more drawn to genetically similar men because pregnant women seek out family members.
Another study of 365 couples published in Psychological Science found that women who went on or off the Pill during a relationship were less sexually satisfied than women who were consistently on the Pill or who had never been on it.”[sic]
As far as genetic procreation goes to select the best genetic match for continued production of offspring it is healthier to choose someone opposite of your genetic makeup. The caveat is this doesn’t mean emotional compatibility. Often we trust our senses rather than our logic in choosing our romantic partners.
Dr. Pat Allen talks about the T-shirt experiment in her podcasts. Saying that it can be a way to assure good chemistry. A bit of Mom and a bit of Dad and just enough not like either of them to get the right concoction for attraction. It’s called chemistry. Chemistry is when our brains notice familiarity. It triggers the feel-good chemicals that make us very attracted to this person. The scent is part of that chemistry concoction.
Does this type of selection work to find a healthy match? I’d have to say no, it doesn’t. Not unless your parents had a healthy connection. If you were programmed unhealthily, then, of course, your brain is wired to have a powerful attraction to that scent, that chemistry. Your choice of someone similar enough to your parents usually is a dysfunctional choice.
Because of this sweaty T-shirt experiment, a dating service developed around sweaty t-shirts where instead of swiping right you chose them based on the body scent.
Smell Dating! They gave no other info to the participants. Smell it and rate it.
“My first boyfriend had a smell I haven’t been able to shake years later. The romantic part of me still can’t help thinking that smell communicates something deeper than what we can see, touch, hear, or taste.”
In the end, Smell Dating, dating service didn’t seem to work for the participant because eventually when shown the photos to the matches the participant didn’t have any reciprocating matches. Sight seems to be the strongest of the 5 senses in choosing romantic partners.
We can see examples of our choices in our past. The automatic choices we made by our senses. Did we make the choice consciously or were they ruled by subconscious traits in the person? Our subconscious brain makes the choice long before our conscious mind knows it. We are along for the ride.
What we can do to make healthier choices? How do we avoid automatic selection?
- Journal when dating someone new
- Write down the pros and cons
- Have a list of non-negotiables and stick to them — no matter how attractive they are
- Space out dates to give yourself time to ponder on the connection (usually 3 days or more)
- Question your choices. If it’s healthy, those questions won’t change anything. We only avoid asking them because we don’t want to see something.
- Ask yourself if this person didn’t smell amazing, didn’t look amazing, there was no chemistry, would I still want to date them.
- Don’t get caught up in “feelings” and use your logic also.
- If it feels like a high, it’s probably not a healthy match — shoot for likability that grows the more you get to know them.
- Listen to the small voice — it usually can give you important info.
- Date people you are less attracted to (not repulsed-just not the normal attraction) and see if spending time with them changes the attraction level.
- Be willing to step out of your comfort level to see how it might be a better choice.
- If you are female and on birth control pills, take into consideration your attraction might be skewed.
Look back on your past choices of partners and see if you can identify why you chose them. Did it just “feel” right or did you have some logic mixed in with your choice? Did you bypass any logic and go for the chemistry? If you based your choice on how you “felt” most likely it was a subconscious decision based on the automatic part of the equation, the senses. The other part of the equation is to choose consciously based on aspects healthy for you! ❤
Photo by Kate Kozyrka on Unsplash