The attraction of smell
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Why your voice and scent matter as much as your looks

Good looks are only part of what draws us to someone. The sound of their voice and their scent are a big part of their appeal, say psychologists.

Have you ever been totally attracted to someone because of the way they smell? Or had the opposite happen – you were turned off in a major way by their B.O.?

Maybe you were on a date and there was something about the sound of the guy or girl’s voice that made them especially endearing? Or you found it so grating you couldn’t wait for the evening to end?

When it comes to who we find attractive, smell and hearing are important senses – and they’re often overlooked, write the authors of a review summing up the latest psychological insights on attractiveness.

What smell and voice reveal

Part of the reason they’re important is because a person’s body odour and voice can tell us a lot about them. For starters, there are the pretty obvious things, like their age and sex. But these traits can also provide clues about how fertile a person is. And someone’s voice – whether it’s high- or low-pitched, or anywhere in between – can tell us how big and, well, strong they are and even what mood they’re in.

Interestingly, our sense of smell and hearing can also be a way to learn about someone’s personality. Not into dominant men? If you find you’re repulsed by a guy’s body odour or voice, that might be the reason. Maybe cooperativeness is really important to you? The sound of someone’s voice can indicate whether they’re the type who works well with others, one study found.

Different senses might come into play at some stages in a relationship and not others. You could be drawn to a person’s looks from afar, before you even go out on a date, and then find you like the sound of their voice when you get to know them. Obviously, these are things you can perceive from a distance. Once you get closer to your guy or gal – in every sense of the word – their scent could draw you to them… or have the opposite effect.

Girls follow their noses

The senses could be involved in attraction in different ways for men and women, research has shown. Whereas men tend to place more importance on physical looks, women are more often guided by their sense of smell.

For both sexes, the senses can also work synergistically, the study’s authors explain. Which means we go by the whole package. The combination of the way a person looks, smells and sound can make them much more attractive than either of these traits would on their own.

Reference: Attractiveness Is Multimodal: Beauty is Also in the Nose and Ear of the Beholder. Frontiers in Psychology. (2017) 8:778.

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