Category: Smell And Attraction

Smell And Attraction


So, what do you think? Are you attracted or repelled to someone based on how they smell … and if so, to what extent?

We’re all either positively or negatively affected by smell. Problem is, we’re affected in different ways. Let me explain.

A study done by scientists from Northwestern University’s School of Medicine on scent and likeability reported that imperceptible levels of scents affect our judgment in unconscious way.

The scientists used three scents at different levels of concentration; from imperceptible to perceptible. The scents were: lemon (good), sweat (bad) and ethereal (neutral). After participants sniffed a sample, they were shown a photo of a human face with a neutral expression and were asked to rate the person’s likeability. Here’s what happened.

When the scent was perceptible to the participants, they were able to discount the odor and evaluate just the faces. However, when the odor was barely perceptible, their judgments about likeability were biased. What does that mean?

Your body is giving off an odor and people are quickly and unconsciously taking that piece of information into account in deciding if they like you or not. That may sound unfair, but like many of the laws of likeability, it is what it is. You either smell good to someone or you don’t.


Now comes the real problem. Different people find the same scent both attractive and unattractive. For example, my neighbor has a night blooming jasmine plant in his yard that we can smell every evening after the sun goes down. Both my wife and I love the smell. It reminds me of a fragrant sugary candy that I used to enjoy as a child known as candy buttons. However, there are people who find the smell offensive.

Another example is an organic by-product of the neem tree we use to fertilize our haliconias. Both of my sons and I find the smell intolerable, where my wife and her female friends find it virtually odorless. Based on this experiment alone, I am completely persuaded that different smells have different reactions to different people.

Another study by Claud Wedekind, a biologist at the University of Lausanne, had 44 men wear a t-shirt for two nights. The t-shirts where then sniffed by 49 women and rated for levels of attractiveness. A higher percentage of the women preferred the odor of the t-shirts worn by men who were immunologically different to them. However, women who were on birth control pills showed preference for men with similar (MHC) or Major Histocompatibility Complex profiles to their own. You can read more about the study and the science behind the study here.

skunkThe point once again is … different people are attracted to different odors. So how can you use this knowledge to make yourself likeable?

To start, understand that smell matters. No one likes to smell someone who generates a bad odor. Basic hygiene is a good start. Take a shower, watch what you eat, brush your teeth, use deodorant, wear clean clothes. These tasks will hide a bad odor, but how do you generate a good, attractive, likable odor?

This is where you need to take a risk and ask your partner when they find your smell most attractive. Allow them to choose or suggest your shampoo, soap, perfume, cologne, deodorant etc. Ask them to tell you when you do and don’t smell good and explain why.

Follow these simple suggestions and you will be well on your way to a happier, healthier more enjoyable life.

If you have a story about smell as it relates to attractiveness or likeability, please tell us about it in the comment section below.

We Don’t Like The People We Hurt

Everything about the title of this article sounds wrong doesn’t it? If anything, we should feel neutral about the people we hurt, but behavioral psychologists have proven time and time again that we actually dislike the people we hurt … but why?

Cognitive Dissonance

Psychologists theorize about a concept know as cognitive dissonance. It’s the uncomfortable feeling we get when we hold two conflicting thoughts in our mind at the same time … and it’s a powerful motivator.

Here’s how it works. Let’s assume that you believe that you have amazing will-power. A friend challenges you to loose weight by not eating after 6:00 p.m. for a month, and you agree. But, on the third day of your new diet you ate a meal after 6:00 p.m. doing exactly what you told yourself you wouldn’t do. This is where cognitive dissonance kicks in.


When you hold two opposing thoughts in your mind at the same time you will look for one of two ways to release the tension. You will:

Change your behavior or …
I’m not going to eat after 6:00 p.m. anymore. I’m stronger than this.

Justify your behavior
I should not have agreed to this in the first place. It’s probably dangerous not to eat after 6:00 p.m.

But what does this have to do with not liking the people we hurt?

Most of us believe that we are good, caring people. We also believe that we would never hurt another human being. That’s our self-perception.

The Accident

Then, one day on our way to work we accidentally bump into a stranger and spill a full cup of coffee on their new dress. It just so happens that they’re on their way to an important job interview and they did not respond to your apology or your offer to help.

Here are the facts.

  1. You accidentally spilled coffee on a woman.
  2. You ruined her dress.
  3. You possibly had a very big negative impact on her interview.
  4. She did not accept your apology or your offer to have her dress cleaned.
  5. She did not give you the opportunity to make things right.

There is no doubt that you hurt this person in many different ways. You embarrassed her, you ruined her dress and you possibly destroyed her opportunity of getting a job. You didn’t do any of these things on purpose, but you hurt her just the same. It was an accident.

Under these same circumstances the vast majority of people (when not give the opportunity to make things right) would have found a way to justify the accident in and blamed the victim. It happens all the time. Their self-talk sounds something like this.

  1. I wouldn’t have spilled the coffee on her if she was paying attention.
  2. She shouldn’t have been standing so close to me.
  3. She was probably looking for a reason not to get this job and she wanted something like this to happen to her.

This may sound ridiculous, but people really do think like this … and so do you.

Dig Deeper

Let’s take a closer look at the woman in this situation. Did she make you feel good or bad about yourself? (Remember, the key to likability is helping people feel good about themselves.) In this example, by not acknowledging your apology or giving you the opportunity to make things right, she made you feel bad about yourself … and that’s where the problem began.

Had she accepted your apology and allowed you to have her dress cleaned, you would have felt much better about yourself and therefor much better about her. You would have seen it as an accident and you would have felt better about yourself for making things right.

What? You don’t agree with me?

1065245_handshakeYou may be reading this and feel that the woman was justified in how she handled herself. So, for the sake or argument, let’s assume that you were the person going on an interview when a stranger accidentally spilled coffee on you. Let’s also assume that (without either of you knowing it) you were on your way to interview with the man who was responsible for spilling coffee on your. Do you think he would have been more or less likely to hire you if you accepted his apology and gave him the opportunity to make things right? I think you know the answer.

If you truly want to be a likable person by helping people feel good about themselves, you will do everything in your power to make sure you do just that, even when you’ve been hurt. And the way to do that is to:

  1. Not be hurt so easily.
  2. Give people the opportunity to apologize and make things right.
  3. Don’t let people walk away from you thinking they hurt you. They will like you less and try to make the situation your fault.

Now that you’re aware of this phenomenon, I’ll bet you see it play out almost every day.

If you have a similar story to share, please post it in the comment section below.

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