Why The Way Someone Smells Can Make Them More Attractive

Love stories galore focus on someone's sparkling eyes or thick hair. But how many times has someone turned your head just because of the rich sound of their voice? Or because they smelled oh-so-good? It turns out that the eyes don't have it when it comes to attraction, at least not all by themselves. Our noses and our ears also have quite a lot of input, according to a review in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Agata Groyecka, lead author of the review and a researcher at the University of Wroclaw in Poland, and her colleagues combed through more than 30 years of research about physical attractiveness to encourage others to study the other senses (via the blog Frontiers Science News). A lot of the literature in this area focuses on visual attractiveness, such as what traits we find appealing about a person's face or body, but we form impressions through many factors. "Acoustic and olfactory cues can, separately or in combination, strongly influence the perceived attractiveness of an individual and therefore attitudes and actions toward that person," the review states.

While this might sound surprising at first, it's easy to understand once you recall the times that you've instantly found a person's voice grating or their body odor off-putting(If you're a Friends fan, remember how Janice's nasally voice was a frequent punchline?) "Perceiving others through all three channels gives a more reliable and broader variety of information about them," Groyecka said on the Frontiers blog.

Even without visual cues, the ears and nose assess attractiveness

Like it or not, attractiveness plays a key part in our nonverbal communication, the review says. Researchers have studied physical attractiveness extensively within the context of mating; but attractiveness also factors into how we form friendships, find success in school and the workplace, and other social contexts.

People form first impressions of others based on their visual appearance, but also their voice or smell, even at some distance — and they're often not even aware of this, the researchers wrote. They cited previous research showing how much information we can glean solely from a person's scent or voice. Olfactory cues in body odor help us assess a person's personality, health status, diet, dominance, and age, they wrote. Vocal cues allow others to make "relatively accurate judgments" about another person's sex, age, dominance, cooperativeness, physical strength, body size, and emotional state, according to Frontiers Science News.

Other studies the team reviewed point out that even without visual cues, an attractive body odor or voice can generate positive impressions and social behavior. It even "can independently predict individual differences in reproductive and socioeconomic success," they wrote. Groyecka told the Frontiers blog that she hoped the review would inspire additional research into how sound and smell affect social relations. No doubt the music industry and makers of perfume and cologne will be curious as the rest of us.