Olfactory Awareness and the Self-Reported Importance of Olfactory Information in Romantic Interest
Many people seem to be looking for similar attributes when searching for a potential romantic partner. Olfactory social cues can be important parts of the process, though there are individual differences as to their value. Gay men, for example, value scent less in selecting a romantic partner than do heterosexual men (White and Cunningham, Chemosens Percept 10:31–41, 2017). Is it possible that the relative importance of olfaction in mate selection is simply a natural consequence of being generally aware of odorants?
The present study examined the relationship between odor awareness and odor importance in mating in two studies. Participants in each of the studies completed both the Romantic Interests Survey (Herz and Inzlich, Evol Hum Behav 23:359–364, 2002) and the Odor Awareness Survey (Smeets et al., Chem Senses 33:725–734, 2008). In the first study, 455 college-aged heterosexual individuals were surveyed, while in the second study, 453 individuals varying in sexual preference (142 heterosexual women, 161 heterosexual men, and 150 gay men) completed the questionnaires.
Principle components analyses from both studies revealed two different components underlying scores on the RIS; one component best accounted for OAS scores. Regression analysis for both studies indicated that OAS scores predicted the first RIS principle component, but not the second one.
The value of odorants in selecting a romantic partner seems to reflect two different underlying attitudes. The first attitude values all aspects of the smell of a lover, while the second only finds it important that the lover does not smell badly. Odor awareness is related only to the first of these attitudes.
These findings suggest that odor awareness accounts for some of the attitudes concerning the value of odors in mate selection, but not all of them. Other factors, such as the need to avoid aversive stimuli, may also contribute to the relative importance of olfaction in selecting a partner.
KeywordsOdor Mating Humans Sexual orientation
The authors contributed to the present paper in different ways. The first and last authors (MV and TW) took part in the initial conceptualization of the work. The first author initiated data collection for study 1, and participated in its analysis. The third author (TW) initiated data collection for study 2, participated in interpretation of the data from both studies, and drafted the article. The second author (CC) analyzed the data from both studies and critically revised the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
This work was supported by Le Moyne College, in particular by the Student Research Fund and the Psychology Research Fund.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
All participants agreed to an Adult Informed Consent that had been approved by the local Institutional Research Board before beginning the study. The data for this survey was collected completely anonymously in that all IP addresses were stripped from the responses. Data was collected over secured, encrypted SSL/TLS connections to ensure that user data was safe in transit, secure, and available only to intended recipients.
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