THE NOSE KNOWS

christina bloom

The Discovery Channel recently aired The Science of Sex Appeal, an exploration of the various ways in which human physical attraction is informed and enforced by biological and neurological processes. One area of ongoing research involves the importance of scent in mate selection. My theory of shared facial features being a significant, albeit often subconscious, factor in determining chemistry and compatibility is nuanced by scientific data about our sense of smell. It would be an evolutionary disaster if similar facial features were not mitigated somehow in order to prevent members of the same family from finding one another sexually attractive and/or physically desirable. Considering how strong the chemistry can be between those who have comparable features, we must be very grateful that the nose often knows. People are usually somewhat repelled by the bodily odors of members of their immediate families. This crucial aversion helps prevent incest. Family members who share DNA, often share similar body odors and evolution demands that we seek sexual partners outside of our immediate smell orbit on order to perpetuate the species and not sabotage the gene pool by inbreeding. Genetics insist on diversified access to an array of healthy DNA in order to ensure greater immunity and reproductive success.

This incest aversion protection is hard wired, but it is also subtle and subconscious. Since the homo sapien left the savanna, the demise of hunter/gatherer societies and the dawn of the agricultural revolution, humans have relied less and less on the power of their sense of smell. In addition, we often mask our true scents with perfumes, deodorants and colognes. But that does not stop the one sense that is directly hard wired to our brains from kicking in to protect us in circumstances where the power of similar features exist; but nature demands caution before desire can tamper with the complex fabric of specie survival.

As Diane Ackerman so aptly puts it in A Natural History of the Senses, “We see only when there is light enough, taste only when we put things into our mouths, touch only when we make contact with someone or something, hear only sounds that are loud enough. But we smell always and with every breath. Cover your eyes and you will stop seeing, cover your ears and you will stop hearing, but if you cover your nose and try to stop smelling, you will die.” This clearly demonstrates that the important and vital visual component which so informs sexual desire and fuels continued chemistry is slightly subordinate to our sense of smell, which according to several scientific studies, offers clues and guidance even when we don’t know it.

A critical unit of investigation that illustrates the importance of scent and the pivotal role of the nose in creating or thwarting desire is the pheromone. Pheromones are chemical secretions emitted by most animals, including humans, designed to trigger certain responses in members of the same species. Human behavior is less controlled by smell than many other mammals but it still provides invaluable clues and offers important social and sexual information in the form of pheromones. We needn’t be aware of these chemical messages to be influenced by them and, hence, responsive to them.

The profound chemistry often generated when two people share similar facial features is further demonstrated by the hard-wired protection offered to steer us away from extinction. A person’s odor is as individual as their fingerprint but we are fortunate that our sensory and neurological impulses combine to narrow the scope of potential mates and make the ‘game of love’ and the ‘science of sex appeal’ serve not only our romantic urges but also our longevity.

Here’s the link to The Science of Sex Appeal:

HYPERLINK “http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/science-of-sex-appeal-incest-avoidance-odor.html”http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/science-of-sex-appeal-incest-avoidance-odor.html

Twins in the UK, a brother and sister who were separated at birth and adopted by different families, fell in love and were married in 2008. The aversion to one another’s scent did not kick in for a variety of reasons, such as those mentioned above, scent masking, reduced scent sensitivity, potential blocked neuro-pathways, etc.  I believe that this brother and sister fell in love because they have similar facial features. Once they discovered that they were biologically related, they separated.

Here are some female celebrities whose partner bears a striking resemblance to one of her parents.  I think this is because the daughter looks like her parent, too.  You be the judge!

Marcheline Bertrand and Jon Voight, left, strongly resemble Brad Pitt and their daughter Angelina Jolie, right.

Bruce Paltrow, left, and Chris Martin with Gwenyth Paltrow, right.

Brittany Murphy, her mother and husband.



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