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Horm Behav. 2012 Feb;61(2):157-66. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2011.11.005. Epub 2011 Nov 23.

Body odor attractiveness as a cue of impending ovulation in women: evidence from a study using hormone-confirmed ovulation.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Scent communication plays a central role in the mating behavior of many nonhuman mammals but has often been overlooked in the study of human mating. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that men may perceive women's high-fertility body scents (collected near ovulation) as more attractive than their low-fertility body scents. The present study provides a methodologically rigorous replication of this finding, while also examining several novel questions. Women collected samples of their natural body scent twice--once on a low-fertility day and once on a high-fertility day of the ovulatory cycle. Tests of luteinizing hormone confirmed that women experienced ovulation within two days of their high-fertility session. Men smelled each woman's high- and low-fertility scent samples and completed discrimination and preference tasks. At above-chance levels, men accurately discriminated between women's high- and low-fertility scent samples (61%) and chose women's high-fertility scent samples as more attractive than their low-fertility scent samples (56%). Men also rated each scent sample on sexiness, pleasantness, and intensity, and estimated the physical attractiveness of the woman who had provided the sample. Multilevel modeling revealed that, when high- and low-fertility scent samples were easier to discriminate from each other, high-fertility scent samples received even more favorable ratings compared with low-fertility scent samples. This study builds on a growing body of evidence indicating that men are attracted to cues of impending ovulation in women and raises the intriguing question of whether women's cycling hormones influence men's attraction and sexual approach behavior.

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