The Power of Scent
Want to boost your mood or stir up old memories? Try using your nose. Scent can even drive a person to romantic distraction—for some people just whiffing a partner's pajamas can do the trick. The nose can even suss out complex mechanisms like sexual compatibility. The well-known dirty T-shirt experiments are evidence of how people are drawn to certain smells and odors. In one of these studies, researchers had male subjects don new T-shirts for two consecutive nights. Female study participants later sniffed each shirt and deemed which ones had the most attractive scent and they preferred the shirts worn by men who were more immunologically dissimilar to themselves. This makes biological sense, as pairing dissimilar immune systems can mean healthier offspring. In fact, some studies indicate that dissimilar MHC genes, which recognize foreign substances, result in lower rates of early miscarriages. Certainly, scent signals are quite complex!