Friday, November 16, 2007

Smelly Facts: Odors & Perceived Attractiveness

Visual cues -such as symmetrical features- are of great importance when judging how attractive a face is. Sensory cues however (such as a person’s voice) also play a big role in whether a face will be perceived as attractive. (Demattè et al., 2007) Could the presence (or indeed absence) of certain smells affect the perceived attractiveness of a face as well? “Olfactory Cues Modulate Facial Attractiveness”, a recent article by Demattè, Österbauer and Spence explores this question with a most interesting experiment. In this experiment, the participants (all female) were asked to rate the attractiveness of different male faces presented on a computer monitor, while simultaneously being presented in each trial with either one of four different odorants, two of which were unpleasant and two of which pleasant (geranium or male perfume VS body odor and rubber) or a neutral odor (clean air). (For those of you wondering, the judgments on the perceived pleasantness or unpleasantness of these odors were derived by a pilot study) The results demonstrated (with statistical significance) that the participants judged the faces as being more attractive when they were paired with a pleasant or neutral odor (geranium, male fragrance or clean air) and less attractive when the faces were paired with the unpleasant odors (body odor, rubber). Since clean air and pleasant odors did not differ significantly between them in the effects they exerted on the participants’ judgments, the best interpretation of these results seems to be that only unpleasant odors seem to have a modulatory effect on perceived attractiveness. I would love to see more research on this subject, especially in regards to specific fragrances that people judge as generally pleasant or unpleasant. Yes, even though taste in perfume is subjective, I do believe that there are fragrances that are generally perceived as attractive or repulsive. Related to this last thought and for all of you (us!) Shalimar lovers out there, I include the following excerpt from the aforementioned, extremely interesting article by Demattè et al.:

“The only previous study that we are aware of in which the presence of an odor was shown to modulate people's ratings of the facial attractiveness of others was reported in a book chapter by Kirk-Smith and Booth (1990). The authors found that in the presence of a perfume (the brand Shalimar; once described by Paukner 1965 as being similar to an "ideal erogenous perfume"), both men and women rated half-torso clad photographs of men and women as being significantly sexier and softer as compared with a no-perfume condition.”

References: Demattè et al., 2007


helg said...

Too bad that so many perceive Shalimar as "old lady", though :-((

You asked for further study. Your wish comes true, LOL:
Attractiveness and Scents Experiment

italian girl said...

Right, I have to say that Shalimar is one of my "old lady" scents..Sorry.
..I have to say that what is amazing to me is the power that a certain smell can bring to one's remembrance of a past event.. a place, or a thing, or a certain person.
My little boy smelled a scented candle by Glade called "Angels Wings".. and he said it reminde him of ME--that it smelled like me!!! What better compliment than to be compared to smelling like an Angel????

Linda said...

Dear Divina,
This is an absolutely fascinating post: I was very interested to read various authors' and experts' opinions on the absolute masterpiece which is Shalimar. I've worn this as a favourite for many years, and always reach for my nearly empty edt when I want to feel soignee. Once, a very unpleasant work colleague said something most insulting to me about it (comparing it to vomit) which nearly had me in tears, but hey! Guerlain has been around much longer than she has... And I STILL love it!
I'm not an old lady either. Thank you as always for your compelling and insightful writing,
Warmest wishes,

Divina said...

Haha, nice one, Helg :) As you yourself mentioned though, this cannot be seen as an experiment...(Not only due to its small sample size, but also due to confounding variables and numerous other flaws) I do hope we get to see more actual scientific research. Please keep us posted if anything catches your eye!

Divina said...

Italian Girl, how sweet is your little boy! What a darling! He sounds like an angel himself! :)

Divina said...

Hi Linda darling! I am so glad you share my love for Shalimar :) On me it is becomes this gorgeous, sultry thing that smells utterly sexy. My skin seems to amp Shalimar's smokiness, something my partner loves :) I found the edp for an amazingly good price this weekend when I went to buy Eau Emotionelle and I got it too. So far I'd been using the EdT, but the EdP is even more stunning imo. Which concentration do you use? I have not smelled the parfum, ever.. I am getting a longing!