When you're shopping for a new perfume, you're probably not consciously searching out a scent that will snare you a new mate. But at the same time, we all know that fragrances are used to attract people. You want others to think you smell good, and of course it would be nice if someone of the opposite sex were attracted by your new perfume. We're all aware of sexy perfume advertising, too. It's not a big secret.
But a 2001 study in the journal "Behavior Ecology" showed that there's lots more going on beneath the surface when you're selecting a new fragrance. Whether you realize it or not, your choice does, in fact, send out a genetic signal that could reel in a suitable mate.
According to the study, people tend to prefer fragrances that -- for whatever reason -- combine with their body chemistry in a way that complements their major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Your MHC involves the genes that make up your immunogenetic profile. People (and other animals) generally pick mates with dissimilar MHCs to give their potential offspring a more genetically diverse -- and thus strong -- immune system.
So, even though you think you're buying that clean, fresh scent or the sexy, musky one just because you enjoy how it smells, what you're actually doing is advertising your immunogenetic profile to potential mates. Might make you think differently the next time you're spraying those cards, huh?
- Austin, K. Jesse. "Choosing the Right Perfume for Your Body Chemistry." Yahoo Voices. Sept. 24, 2007. (Aug. 13, 2012) http://voices.yahoo.com/choosing-right-perfume-body-chemistry-551346.html
- Gold, Marta. "Body chemistry, clothing, occasion all determine the right fragrance." Montreal Gazette. (Aug. 13, 2012) http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Body+chemistry+clothing+occasion+determine+right+fragrance/3450588/story.html
- Sad, Gaad. "Perfume Preferences and Body Chemistry." Psychology Today. Dec. 21, 2009. (Aug. 13, 2012) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/homo-consumericus/200912/perfume-preferences-and-body-chemistry