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Perfume Preferences and Body Chemistry

Gift Advice: Offer Perfumes Congruent with an Individual’s Body Chemistry.

A common gift offered during the holiday season is the ubiquitous perfume or cologne. We all have unique self-preferences when it comes to our favorite perfumes. What determines these preferences? Is it the persuasive ability of the advertising campaign? Is it the celebrity endorser whose name is associated with the particular brand? Certainly, marketing has some effect on the perfumes that we prefer. However, there seems to be some basic olfactory congruence between our perfume preferences and our unique body odors. I am sure that many readers might remember their wives or husbands advising them that a particular perfume seemed to smell particularly nicely when applied on them. Clearly, the same perfume when applied on two different people will be perceived quite differently, again suggesting that there is some unique congruence between an individual's body fragrances and those of a perfume.

In 2001, Manfred Milinski and Claus Wedekind published a very intriguing study on the links between self-preferences of perfumes and individuals' major histocompatibility complex (MHC). The MHC consists of a set of genes that capture a person's unique immunogenetic profile/signature. As such, the MHC is a disassortative mating trait (i.e., people choose individuals who are maximally dissimilar from them on this trait, as a means of providing greatest immunological defenses for their prospective offspring). See my earlier post on this topic here. Incredibly, Milinski and Wedekind found that people preferred perfumes that seemed best suited for their unique MHC profile. In this case, this means that preferred perfumes are those that are most likely to augment an individual's body fragrances as a means of advertising his/her MHC signature.

Bottom line: Our perfume preferences are part of a wide range of signals that we use to attract prospective mates. I suppose you all knew this already albeit you might have not been aware of the actual science behind this known fact. Consumers are indeed animals!

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