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Lookup NU author(s): Dr Caroline Allen
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).
Cultural practices may either enhance or interfere with evolved preferences as predicted by culture–gene coevolution theory. Here, we investigated the impact of artificial fragrances on the assessment of biologically relevant information in human body odor. To do this, we examined cross-sensory consistency (across faces and odors) in the perception of masculinity and femininity in men and women, and how consistency is influenced by the use of artificial fragrance. Independent sets of same and opposite-sex participants rated odor samples (with and without a fragrance, n = 239 raters), and photographs (n = 130) of 20 men and 20 women. In female, but not male raters, judgments of masculinity/femininity of non-fragranced odor and faces were correlated. However, the correlation between female ratings of male facial and odor masculinity was not evident when assessing a fragranced body odor. Further analysis also indicated that differences in ratings of male odor masculinity between men with high and low levels of facial masculinity were not present in fragranced body odor samples. This effect was absent in ratings of female odors by both female and male raters, suggesting sex-specificity in the effects of fragrance on odor perception. Our findings suggest that women may be more attentive to these odor cues, and therefore also to disruption of this information through fragrance use. Our results show that cultural practices might both enhance and interfere with evolved preferences.
Author(s): Allen C, Cobey KD, Havlicek J, Roberts SC
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Evolution and Human Behavior
Print publication date: 01/11/2016
Online publication date: 11/05/2016
Acceptance date: 04/05/2016
Date deposited: 19/06/2018
ISSN (print): 1090-5138
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