Why is human attraction so weird and confusing
Science & Tech / /
Most of us don’t find the smell of person’s body and the sound of their voice attractive at first place. Maybe if the person is wearing an intoxicating perfume or has fabulous accent we take notice, but in other cases those factors vanish comparing to their behavior, confidence or sense of humor. But before we knew about all of that, our subconscious knew something far more interesting and important: we’re already drawn to this person.
The brains or someone’s brawn, or even their perfectly symmetrical face is something that catches our attention, but it is not the only thing we are attracted by. We’ve probably noticed that attraction is quite vague area that is yet relatively under-studied and has many components that fit together. The role of physical beauty has been far more central to the study of attraction during time. Symmetrical faces, specific ratios, height—they’ve all been associated with attractiveness. On the other side the role of smells and speech has been studied a lot less, and has gotten less attention.
In the name of that, a group of psychologists got together to examine what are the impact that vocal and olfactory cues make to the attractiveness. According to the study on the subject, both sexes can tell whether their partner is healthy and whether they’re immunologically and genetically compatible, on the bases of smell alone. Men tend to put accent on physical attractiveness more compared to women, who tend to prefer scent. Based on man’s natural odor, women can tell when he is more attractive and more dominant and when, while men can tell when a woman is fertile. A person’s voice gives similar cues.
Most of this research was focused on the attractiveness of partners who were heterosexual, male-female pairings, and if the psychologists test female-female or male-male attraction it's considered generally as a comparison, not a part of the main research. So take the results from the research with a grain of salt.
All of these results might sound pretty animalistic and primitive. That is mainly because of a key player known as the vomeronasal organ. It might be know better as the part of the body that reacts to hormones called pheromones. Lots of animals, from insects to mammals, rely on this organ when sending signals like sexual attraction, fear or aggression. It’s also what some animals use to test a female’s pee to see if the female is ovulating.
When talking about sexual attraction in humans, it’s expected to talk about our animal instincts and to mention pheromones. What’s interesting is that humans probably aren’t influenced by pheromones at all.
Biologists are at first place still doubting whether or not humans have a functioning vomeronasal organ that detects pheromones. As Popular Science magazine reports, we may have some remnant of it, but it seems to have been cut off from the rest of the body. There doesn’t appear to be any physical connection between the organ and the rest of the central nervous system, and the genes related to its function have all become pseudogenes—related but no longer functional versions of real genes.
Aside from vomeronasal organs, there are a few other theories for why attraction is so complicated for humans. One of them is that the combination of different factors simply gives you the best estimation of your compatibility. A man’s chest-to-waist ratio isn’t a good predictor for sexual health and attraction, but combined with his scent, the tone of his voice, and his body shape you are getting a much better vision. Another theory relies on the fact that each individual trait isn’t all that predictive of compatibility, but because there isn’t a reason to eliminate the weak preference they stick around just like vestigial organs, but sexier. We aren't sure what kind of messages our bodies are sending on through these cues, let alone how our interpretation of them changes if, for instance, we cannot use all of the five senses, or if we aren't participants in a male-female meet cute.
As in other cases, also here, more research is needed.
Source: Popular Science