Healthy Living

Perfect Match: People Attracted To Body Odor Of Those With Shared Political Views, Not Opposing Views

People sweating, and raising their armpits
Body odor may be a sign of compatibility for potential mates who are subconsciously attracted to the smell of people with the same political views. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Odors can elicit a range of emotions, and even trigger memories, allowing us to reminisce as the aromas stimulate our senses. When it comes to sexual attraction, we can sniff out our perfect match not by the deodorants, or perfumes they use, but by the body odor we find most attractive, masked under those chemicals. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Political Science, our natural body odor can be a sign of compatibility for potential partners, as we are subconsciously more aroused by the smell of people with shared political views, not opposing views.

Our body odor is largely influenced by Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) molecules that are genetically determined and linked to the immune system. Popular and controversial research from zoologist Claus Wedekind’s “smelly T-shirt” experiment has shown the human species is attracted to scents with different compatibility genes from themselves. This is supported under the belief we choose partners who would provide a genetic advantage to their offspring, since they opt for partners whose MHC composition is substantially different from their own.

While a significant difference in MHC structure may influence our mating choices, Dr. Rose McDermott, lead author of the new study and a professor of International Relations at Brown University, and her colleagues suggest there is a link between body odor and political beliefs and potential mates. To understand how ideologically similar mates end up together and how the olfactory processes play an important role in both political ideology and mate selection, the researchers surveyed 146 people between the ages of 18 and 40. These participants were also asked to indicate their political views.

Political ideology was measured on a seven-point scale from “strongly liberal” to “strongly conservative.” A total of 21 “target participants” who scored highly on either end of the political spectrum were chosen from this group. This included 10 liberal minded participants and 11 conservatives.

The target participants were told to wash with fragrance-free soap and to wear a gauze pad under their arms for 24 hours. They were instructed not to smoke, drink, or use deodorant during that time. One week later, the researchers gathered 125 volunteers who were polled about their political beliefs, and then asked to rate the attractiveness of each sample from the previous group.

The findings revealed the volunteers subconsciously rated the samples of those with shared political beliefs as more attractive and those on the opposite end of the political spectrum as less attractive. "People could not predict the political ideology of others by smell if you asked them, but they differentially found the smell of those who aligned with them more attractive," said McDermott in the press release. “So I believe smell conveys important information about long-term affinity in political ideology that becomes incorporated into a key component of subconscious attraction.”

This suggests body odor can provide a signal of compatibility for potential mates. An attraction for shared political views shape values that directly impact physiological and sexual compatibility, along with child-rearing strategies. A similarity in values increases the likelihood partners are able to stay together long enough to raise children into adulthood.

In a 2013 study published in the journal Political Behavior, researchers found political preferences develop through a complex interaction of social upbringing, life experience, circumstances, and genes and hormones, which influences our psychological architecture. When it comes to mating, the findings suggest both liberals and conservatives seek to date individuals who are like themselves based on non-political factors such as lifestyle and demographics. It is these very similar interests and values that leads to an inadvertent similarity on political preferences.

Both findings highlight compatibility with partners with shared political views is influenced by non-political factors, such as lifestyle, demographics, and even body odor. The notion of finding your perfect match via body odor print has led to the rise in pheromone parties where singletons look for potential compatibility after sniffing bags of smelly t-shirts. So, chances are if you like someone’s body odor, you are most likely affiliated with the same political party.

Sources: Hatemi PK, McDermott R, Tingley D. Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues. American Journal of Political Science. 2014.

Hatemi PK, Klofstad CA, McDermott R. The Dating Preferences of Liberals and Conservatives. Political Behavior. 2014. 

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