What Women Want

December 26th, 2008 | Sources: Economist

Perfume makers want guys to believe they’ll have more success attracting women if they apply a scent. It turns out that’s probably true, but not for the reason members of either sex would expect.

Craig Roberts and his team from the University of Liverpool showed that that when a man alters his normal body odor by adding fragrance, it positively impacts self-confidence and that creates visual cues women find attractive.

The scientists, working with a research team from Unilever, gave half the male volunteers in their study an unlabelled spray containing a commercial fragrance. The other half received an identically-appearing aerosol that contained no scent at all.

The men knew whether their spray contained a scent because they could smell it, but they didn’t know their behavior was being compared to men in the other cohort.

Psychological testing revealed that self-confidence increased in the group of men that had applied a scent, but not in the fragrantless control group.

Next, the scientists showed women brief, silent videos of men in both groups. The medium removed scent from the equation, yet women found men in the fragrantly-scented group to be more attractive.

Follow-up testing revealed the women were attracted equally to both groups when they were shown still photographs of the men, so something about the men’s posture and movement, and not their physical appearance, was decisive.

Thus when Unilever claims its deodorant Lynx renders men irresistibly attractive it’s hard to argue but the attraction has nothing to do with the smell of the fragrance and everything to do with the confidence-building effect it has on the men wearing it.

The study will be published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science.


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