Are good looks the key for sexual attraction? In fact, in most cases, it is not. Romantic novels often claim that when eyes meet across a crowded room they signal love at first sight. But fiction and love sometimes inhabit different spheres. Researchers have found that a first sniff may actually activate the process of falling in love.

Psychologists, looking through three decades of research, discovered how a prospective partner smells is key. Someone’s scent forms an important part of our first impressions of them as it can give us clues about them. Also, while we tend to pick a partner with a face similar to our own, they must smell different to us – an evolutionary safeguard to avoid inbreeding, as those who are related to us tend to smell similar. The sound of someone’s voice is also important, with women tending to pick men with deep masculine-sounding voices, especially when looking for a shorter relationship, while men often listen out for high-pitched voices.

A report, by Polish and British scientists, says we form our first impressions on others based on sound and smell, even from a distance. How someone smells can give hints about their personality, age and how healthy and fertile they are. Women appear to care more about how someone smells than men, according to the review which was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Meanwhile, we use vocal stresses to judge a person’s emotional state and dominance. The authors suggest the brain is hard-wired to process faces and voices together. Speaking about the role of voices while looking for love, study co-author, Katarzyne Pisanski, from the University of Sussex, said: ‘Woman are attracted to very masculine voices because they associate them with a larger body size and dominance, but how much they prefer them varies. Women want a masculine voice in a short-term relationship, but in a longer term relationship they appear to want someone who sounds relatively less masculine. This might be because women think they might be more likely to stick around. How much people prefer a certain smell or voice can depend on the individual, and whether perfume and aftershaves can cloud or enhance a person’s natural smell is still debated – which raises the question for future research of whether people could fake their sound or smell to attract others.’

The study’s lead author, Agata Groyacka, from the University of Wroclaw in Poland, said: ‘Recently, most reviews have focused on visual attractiveness, but literature about other senses and their role in social relationships has grown rapidly and should not be neglected.’ She added, ‘Perceiving others through all three channels gives a more reliable and broader variety of information about them.’

From my own experience I view smell as the most dominant feature that determines eventually the coupling process and keeps sexual attraction alive and throbbing.

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