On February 14, 2016 (Valentine’s Day) Smell Dating launched “the first mail odor online dating service.”
The online dating service matches soulmates strictly by scent.
Smell Dating is a not for profit pilot research program. Submit a small fee of $25, and Smell Dating will send you a T-shirt to wear for three days. No aromatic scents, including deodorant, are allowed during the experiment. You then send your sweaty T-shirt back off to Smell Dating for analysis. After which you will receive similar sweaty T-shirts back in the mail for you to samples as potential mates to sniff in exchange.
Smell Dating research is experimenting to find out the success rate for choosing partners through scent alone. They're hoping to show that smell is a far better predictor of romantic success in relationships than the visual cues from photos.
The theory is that by choosing a mate by scent alone you are relying on the primal bodily information you receive. Information that connects you to deeper channels of influence on your decision making with enhanced results for long term succes in romantic partnerships.
With worldwide divorce rates continuing to be on the rise, a bit of smell intervention in the mix of socializing to find promising soulmates sounds like a ‘hopeful’ alternative for meeting a potential partner. The divorce rate in the U.S. alone, between 40-50% and climbing, may be a statistic that triggers an influx of Smell Dating hopefuls.
Throwing Pheromone Parties is a small, but growing social media trend, that uses the T-shirt smell test to match people. Choosing a romantic partner based on a smell test is thought to match people based on how similarly they smell the world.
No doubt, smell is one of our most important senses. It helps us safely navigate our environment. Your sense of smell keeps you safe from eating spoiled food, or alerts you to threats like a fire or gas leak.
Your sense of smell is linked to memory, emotions and interactions with other people. A highly social instinct, your sense of smell can either attract or repel you.
Your nose is also the source for much of your experience of pleasure. Your sense of smell is especially involved in eating and influences your interpretation of various tastes and flavors.
According to Dr. Richard Doty, director of the University of Pennsylvania Smell and Taste Center and a world-renowned researcher in the field of olfactory functioning and dysfunction (anosmia), “When we smell and chew something, like a chocolate chip cookie, odor molecules travel to the back of the nose, where they dissolve into mucus and bind to olfactory receptor cells. Those receptors rocket the smell directly to the brain, a much quicker route than other senses take. As a result, smell can trigger thoughts and behaviors very quickly. Catch a whiff of cookies baking, and you might suddenly be struck by a memory of mom. You might also start salivating.”
Smell & Human Compatibility
Another researcher, Dr. Denise Chen, an associate professor of neurology at Baylor College of Medicine, has been using her subject’s sweat to explore how smell influences behavior in a social setting.
Dr. Chen asserts that people’s sense of smell can pickup on subtle emotional nuances, like fear. Her research has shown that couples can interpret sweat samples from their partner better than from a stranger. For example, from sweat samples alone, partners were able to name an emotion behind their partner’s sweat, i.e., happy, fearful or sexually excited. The longer the couple had been together, the better they were at it interpreting the emotion behind the sweat. However, the couples weren’t aware that they were interpreting these subtle cues of emotion. It was a purely intuitive, unconscious and instinctual response.
Chen asserts that, “Smell acts at different levels of conscious awareness,” which, of course, makes smell a difficult area of research.
Indeed, research suggests that, “Humans have superb olfactory abilities, yet olfaction has a limited place in human awareness.”
A study published in the journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), reported that by testing how 238 people reacted to a series of odors, they were able to develop an algorithm of a person’s unique sense of smell, called an “olfactory fingerprint.” Tests showed that a person’s olfactory fingerprint was significantly linked to their bone marrow type - aka Human Leucocyte Antigens (HLA). The correlation was so strong that they were able to use it as a tool to screen bone marrow transplants.
“The underlying theory is that somehow we select immune compatibility in a mate,” says Noam Sobel, an expert in olfaction and professor of neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. HLA fit is one test used to determine whether or not an organ donor and recipient will be compatible.
HLA, is also linked to a large number of olfactory receptors and appears to be particularly important for how we smell other people.
Using a smell-based fingerprint to predict the quality of a relationship was the subject of a study conducted by Sobel. “Olfactory fingerprints were taken from 222 couples—some of whom had been together a short time, others who had been married 35 years—and interviewed them.” The study showed there was a “frighteningly strong” connection between how, “Couples perceived scents of the world and the success of their romantic relationship. Couples that smell together, stay together.”
“Pheromones are substances which are secreted to the outside world by an individual and received by a second individual of the same species.” There are numerous examples of animal pheromones but the role of pheromones in humans continues to be uncertain. Pheromones can be detected by the human olfactory system. Pheromones may well be present in all bodily secretions, however, axillary (armpit) sweat is known to contain the most odorous compounds. One of these compounds, androstadienone, has the highest concentrations in male sweat and easily detected by women, with varying degrees of sensitivity. A pharmaceutical dosage of androstadienone applied to a women’s upper lip resulted in, “Improved mood and heightened focus - particularly to capture emotional information.” An elevated mood helps to facilitate a woman’s sexual response, while increased focus improves her feeling of sexual satisfaction
Preliminary studies suggest that androstadienone may plays a role in mate selection. If a man smells a certain way a woman may project subjective feelings of his attractiveness onto his facial and bodily features as she's looking for a potential mate.
Do Pheromones Really Exist?
According to the current research, we do not yet know if pheromones actually do exist in humans. Maybe we’ve been looking in all the wrong places? It’s now thought that some behaviors in babies may be pheromone induced. Scientists noticed that a secretion from, “Areolar glands on a lactating mother’s nipples will induce a suckling response in an infant, even if the child is not her own.”
The search for scientific evidence of human pheromones continues. From the studies conducted to date we do know that there are deep and powerful mysteries at work involving scent that are not easily discernible or categorized. These subtle and subjective levels of communication are yet to be verified by objective science. For science pheromones yet represent hopeful wanabes and placebo effects.