What eyes and odours reveal about sexual attraction

DO MEN, in essence, marry their mothers, and women their fathers? And do they also choose mates by smell in a way that is likely to result in healthy offspring? These are both old hypotheses and both have been tested by studies published this week. Only one of them, however, seems to hold up.

Janek Lobmaier of the University of Bern, in Switzerland, and his colleagues, looked at the question of smell. Their work appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. Lisa DeBruine of the University of Glasgow, in Britain, and her colleagues looked, in a paper posted to bioRxiv, an online database, at eye colour—specifically, whether the eyes of someone’s lover match those of a pertinent parent.

Dr Lobmaier and his team were testing the idea that people literally sniff out partners with appropriate major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes. Individuals with more diverse sets of MHC…Continue reading

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