Friday, December 23, 2011

Do Genes Determine our Perfume Preferences?

New studies seem to imply that not only our sexual attraction to different mates with different body scents is related to biological reasons hidden in our genes, but that our general fragrance preferences and likes are also embedded in our hardwired immune system.

"Previous research has found that a set of genes called MHC genes (short for major histocompatibility complex) is related to whether someone is sexually attracted to someone else's scent. People are most likely to be attracted to the scent of someone who has different MHC genes than they do. [...] Hämmerli and his colleagues hypothesized that our MHC genes may also dictate our preferences for other smells. [...] Hämmerli's team recruited 116 study participants — both male and female — and asked them to smell 10 different scents, including cedar, rose, cinnamon and moss.
Some smells were clear winners and losers — the highest rated was tolu, a scent that comes from a South American balsam tree and resembles vanilla. The lowest rated was vetiver, which originates from a grass in India and is said to have a "woody" or "earthy" scent. But for each scent, the strength of the participants' preferences varied depending on each person's particular set of MHC genes .[...]Biologist Leslie Knapp at the University of Cambridge said the new study could be expanded to test whether the perfume preferences hold true when the perfumes are worn by others, as opposed to sprayed on one's own body.

Read the whole article here.


  1. Interesting. My MHC (HLA-A 02,33, -B 51, etc) are then clearly incompatible with: calone, ozonic, and especially swampy florals.


  2. M,

    LOL, I can well see that. :D

    On a large part, I think we might have had an accomodating MHC set to begin with (at least able to tolerate), but the saturation in faceless calon-ics and ozonics (and some swampy florals) has ruined it for good.

    I also think that the research must have been conducted with concentrated essences rather than diluted to the level of a standard cologne (which is what people associate with perfume and pick up in a blend): not everything smells "good" in those ratios. Hence the very low score of vetiver, which is indeed TOO MUCH when undiluted, but is beautiful when thinned to a cologne level. In a way the results might be said to be a bit skewed in that regard. They should have employed someone in the fragrance industry in there too ;-)

  3. It's a totally different experience wearing a perfume against smelling it on someone else. So, the new study they plan to conduct would be mush more enlightening.

    You are right about the concentration.

    Merry Christmas!

  4. If we narrow everything down to gene dictation, it leaves very little room for personal choice, environmental factors, creativity and/or physical factors--among other variables. While interesting to know how genes effect preferences, I think we will find out things are far more complicated, nuanced and not easily quantified.

  5. and oh,Happy sniffing and Merry Christmas everyone!

  6. A,

    yeah, I think they were quick with the results, weren't they?

    Happy Holidays!

  7. TFC,

    as you say, there's a lot of conditioning going on, just like with colour preferences or specific styles of architecture prefered etc. It would be sad to think it's all predetermined.

    But I guess the current direction in science is to think "it's all nature" rather than nurture, nowadays, what with the complete decoding of the DNA and everything. (It was bound to happen since so much emphasis has been given to biology).

  8. Happy sniffing to you too and happy new year!


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