Love at First ... Smell?

Monday's Talker is about the people we're romantically attracted to, and why we're attracted to them.

Do you believe in love at first smell? A new idea for matchmaking is based on it. "Pheromone parties" seem kind of wacky, but there's some real science to back them up.

Pheromone parties have been held in New York and Los Angeles, and are now planned for other cities. Singles are asked beforehand to wear the same t-shirt to bed three nights in a row. They're supposed to put the shirt in a plastic bag and bring it to the party. Potential dates then take a whiff and decide which ones smell good to them. They're showed photos of the people whose smells they like and -- if they want -- they can meet the people.

Pheromone parties were started by Judith Prays, a web developer in Atlanta who met a guy she didn't think was her type -- but she was attracted to his smell. They ended up having a two-year relationship -- much longer than the other guys she dated.

Pheromones are chemicals we all emit. Martha McClintock at the University of Chicago has found astounding things studying them. In one experiment -- using t-shirts that men had slept in -- she asked women to smell the shirts and say which scent they would choose to be around all the time, and which scent they'd choose to avoid.

45 of 49 women picked scents from men whose genetic makeup's had some similarities to their own. And those same women rejected the smells off men whose genetics had no similarity to theirs.

The upshot: we may be able to smell the genes of others and instinctively determine if their genes would mesh well with ours in terms of having children.


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