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New study: pleasant smells make female faces more attractive

Posted June 2, 2014

We are all attracted to pleasant fragrances. Today fragrances can be found all around, from scented candles to all of your favorite bath and body products. There are numerous reasons why people wear perfumes, but ultimately it boils down to the fact that they make us feel happy and feel like desired beings.

A collection of glass perfume bottles. Author: Angela Andriot/Wikimedia Commons

A collection of glass perfume bottles. Author: Angela Andriot/Wikimedia Commons

Besides, perfume connects us with memories and helps us to show individuality. It is also said, that women get attracted to men because of the way they smell, more than because of the way they look. This is because the scent is the first thing a person notices about the representative of the opposite sex, despite the fact that it can be hardly noticeable.

In addition to these points, a new study from the Monell Chemicals Senses Center found that women’s faces are rated as more attractive in the presence of pleasant odors. The scientists asked 18 healthy, non-smoking and young participants to rate the attractiveness of eight images of female faces, which had varying levels of aging. The participants were instructed not to eat or drink anything but water one hour prior to thr testing and not to wear any scented products on that day.

When the participants were rating the images, one of five odors was released. The most unpleasant order was a mixture of fish oil, and the most pleasant smell was rose oil. The middle smells were along a spectrum between the two. The participants were first presented with an unprocessed image of the face for a total of 1000ms. At the offset of the target face, odor presentation was initiated and a blank screen was displayed with a random interval between 400 to 600 ms, after which a second image of the same face with increased or decreased features were presented during a maximum of 2000 ms. The participants were asked to make a simple fast decision, whether a face in an altered image looked older or younger than the reference image presented before, using a response pad.

Each participant had to answer three questions about the pictures. They had to assess the age and the attractiveness of the individual in the altered image. Besides, they rated the valence of the presented odor. The perceptual ratings were conducted by means of a digital visual analog scale with anchors “extremely unpleasant”/”extremely pleasant” in the case of odor valence evaluation and “extremely unattractive”/”extremely attractive” in case of face attractiveness evaluation. The task was repeated eight times for every possible odor and facial transformation category combination rendering a total of 192 trials per participant.

The results showed that the way the participants visually perceived the women was strongly influenced by what odor they were smelling. When they smelled something pleasant, they rated the older-looking faces as younger, and the younger faces as even younger. That was not the case with bad smells. Older and younger faces were perceived as similar in age.

“Odor pleasantness and facial attractiveness integrate into one joint emotional evaluation. This may indicate a common site of neural processing in the brain.” said lead author Janina Seubert, PhD, a cognitive neuroscientist, who was a postdoctoral fellow at Monell at the time the research was conducted. Choosing the right perfume is perhaps the most difficult thing for a woman, but this study showed that this procedure is really significant: pleasant odor has an influence on the perceived facial attractiveness.

Sources: PlosOne, ScienceDaily, ScienceNewsline, MDConnects,,,

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