The scent of a woman: subtle factors influencing human sexual attraction

Scent of a woman
men’s testosterone responses to olfactory ovulation cues

From Psychological Science

According to this research, odors can be a subtle factor affecting human mating, similar to the behavior of other animals. Monitoring the responses of men after smelling t-shirts worn by ovulating women, non-ovulating women and some not worn at all, they observed reactions and biological changes. This study provides evidence that ovulatory cues are detectable, the findings suggest that smell can be identified as a relatively subtle biological process that guides mating and can be linked to sexual behavior and initiation of romantic courtship.


Adaptationist models of human mating provide a useful framework for identifying subtle, biologically based mechanisms influencing cross-gender social interaction. In line with this framework, the current studies examined the extent to which olfactory cues to female ovulation—scents of women at the peak of their reproductive fertility—influence endocrinological responses in men. Men in the current studies smelled T-shirts worn by women near ovulation or far from ovulation (Studies 1 and 2) or control T-shirts not worn by anyone (Study 2). Men exposed to the scent of an ovulating woman subsequently displayed higher levels of testosterone than did men exposed to the scent of a nonovulating woman or a control scent. Hence, olfactory cues signaling women’s levels of reproductive fertility were associated with specific endocrinological responses in men—responses that have been linked to sexual behavior and the initiation of romantic courtship.

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Article details

Miller, S., & Maner, J. (2009). Scent of a Woman: Men’s Testosterone Responses to Olfactory Ovulation Cues Psychological Science, 21 (2), 276-283 DOI: 10.1177/0956797609357733

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