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The Myth Of The Relationship Between Scent And Attractiveness

1315 words - 6 pages

The Myth of the Relationship between Scent and Attractiveness
Researches have shown physical attractiveness is not solely dependent upon the visual aspects of appearance but is often modulated by other sensory cues as well. While the importance of the sense of smell in social interactions and behavior of animals is well known, olfaction has often been thought to be of minor relevance to primates in general and humans in particular. However, social psychology research has demonstrated that people tend to rate other people more positively when in the presence of a pleasant ambient fragrance (Demattè, Österbauer, & Spence, 2007). Indeed, the personal use of fragrance should be considered ...view middle of the document...

Moreover, the experiment by Dematte et al. showed that the female participants rated the male faces as being significantly less attractive in the presence of an unpleasant odor than when the faces were presented together with a pleasant odor or with clean air.
However, there are several studies showing that olfaction is not an important determinant of attractiveness. For example, the male college students in a study by Cann and Ross had to rate a series of pictures of female faces while in the presence of either a pleasant or unpleasant ambient odor or in the absence of any specific odor (Demattè, Österbauer, & Spence, 2007). Analysis of the students’ attractiveness ratings indicated that the variations in odor had absolutely no effect on these social judgments. In another study, Bensafi et al. conducted an event-related potential (ERP) experiment in which female volunteers had to judge the attractiveness of female faces in the presence versus absence of a pleasant floral odor. In all, 36.2% of the faces were judged as pleasant in the no-odor condition versus 36.8% in the presence of the floral odor (Demattè, Österbauer, & Spence, 2007). Unsurprisingly, this difference was not statistically significant. Further, in the experiment by Foster, women rated the attractiveness of t-shirt odors and facial photographs of 21 men either independently or together. Results show photograph ratings were far more predictive of overall attractiveness than were t-shirt ratings. Thus he concludes when tested under conditions that approximate how attractiveness perceptions are made in the natural environment, sight is more important than smell when women judge the attractiveness of men (Foster, 2008).
In all these studies, however, it is difficult to separate the effects of the mere presence of the odor on judgments of the people from the indirect effects that extended exposure to that odor may have had on a person’s mood. Thus, we would also like to explore the effects of scents on mood and self-perception and how these effects influence judgment on attractiveness.
The perception of smell consists not only of the sensation of the odors themselves but of the experiences and emotions associated with these sensations. Our olfactory receptors are directly connected to the limbic system, the most ancient and primitive part of the brain, which is thought to be the seat of emotion. One recent study familiarized women to a pleasant fragrance within their skin care product and showed that this odor later induced psychological and physiological changes associated with a state of increased relaxation (Roberts, Little, Lyndon, Roberts, Havlicek, & Wright, 2009). This personal cheering effect by fragrance will inevitably be reflected in behavior, may be of help in attracting potential partners. In the experiment by Roberts et al., they tested the effects of a double-blind manipulation of personal odor on self-confidence and behavior. They gave to male...

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