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Research Into Scent Could Explain Human Mate Choice

Scientists at the University of Liverpool are looking for families to take part in an investigation into how sensory signals can help humans identify potential mates, as well as friends and family members.

Previous research suggests that sensing chemical signals emitted by the body can influence behaviour, mood and social interactions in humans. It is thought that these sensory cues may convey important information about gender, age, individual identity and emotional states.

Scientists believe that response to these sensory signals may help humans identify those that are familiar to them and may also influence mate choice and relationships within the family. The team at Liverpool is looking to recruit 60 families who have at least two children aged between eight and 18 to help them understand how this system develops from childhood to adulthood.

Camille Ferdenzi, at the University’s School of Biological Sciences, explains: “During adolescence, changes are thought to occur in the perception of odours emitted from the axillary region – better known as the armpit and a key zone in the build-up of overall body odour. It is thought that young children are attracted to scents that are similar to those of their parents, but in adolescence we may develop a natural aversion to them.

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“Some scientists believe that scent perception can help make relationships with parents, peers, same sex friends and opposite sex friends distinct. But it is the development of mate-choice processes and of our natural aversion to within-family sexual relationships that is important for the evolution of our species. There has been very little research in this area and we are hoping to recruit 60 families to help us discover more about the body’s natural odour.

“We need families to supply us with a body odour sample, by placing a cotton pad underneath their armpit and participating in one session whereby they smell the samples and complete a questionnaire about their experiences.”

Families who participate in the study will be rewarded with a free family ticket to Ness Botanic Gardens in Cheshire.

Samantha Martin | alfa
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