Human body odour, symmetry and attractiveness

Anja Rikowski, Karl Grammer

Abstract

Several studies have found body and facial symmetry as well as attractiveness to be human mate choice criteria. These characteristics are presumed to signal developmental stability. Human body odour has been shown to influence female mate choice depending on the immune system, but the question of whether smell could signal general mate quality, as do other cues, was not addressed in previous studies. We compared ratings of body odour, attractiveness, and measurements of facial and body asymmetry of 16 male and 19 female subjects. Subjects wore a T–shirt for three consecutive nights under controlled conditions. Opposite–sex raters judged the odour of the T–shirts and another group evaluated portraits of the subjects for attractiveness. We measured seven bilateral traits of the subject's body to assess body asymmetry. Facial asymmetry was examined by distance measurements of portrait photographs. The results showed a significant positive correlation between facial attractiveness and sexiness of body odour for female subjects. We found positive relations between body odour and attractiveness and negative ones between smell and body asymmetry for males only if female odour raters were in the most fertile phase of their menstrual cycle. The outcomes are discussed in the light of different male and female reproductive strategies.