The sweet stench of desire

Two new studies reveal what men and women look for in a mate. Hint: Men, take a bath.

Published June 19, 2001 7:20PM (EDT)

American men spend $9.5 billion a year on their looks, according to Fortune magazine, and 51 minutes grooming each day, according to household industry journal Happi, but a new study reports that women care more about smell than appearance when selecting a mate.

Brown University professor Rachel Herz surveyed 231 heterosexual college students and found that women trust their sniffers above all else, the London Independent reported. Herz presented the study at the American Psychological Society's annual conference, held last week in Toronto.

"Body smell is linked to a person's immunological make-up," the article reported, and "Herz said women sniffed out mates with different antibodies so they had the greatest chance of healthy offspring."

Herz's study also found that women like a little ambition in a mate. One assumes assiduous lilac salesmen have their ducks in a row.

Men responded neutrally to questions about women's odor, and don't think much of ambition. It's appearance that they care about the most. A second study presented at the conference by professor Adam Brown of St. Bonaventure University reported that "high eyebrows" on a woman were rated at once attractive and welcoming. Women with low eyebrows were rated least attractive. The results seem to suggest that a man is most attracted to a woman who demonstrates interest in him.

Attractiveness wasn't as important to men as sex appeal, but even more important than that was personality. Women responded similarly. "A pleasant disposition," Herz said, matters most to both sexes when it comes to mate selection.

By Chris Colin

Chris Colin is the author most recently of "Blindsight," published by the Atavist.

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