So they asked men in the community to give up deodorant and wear T-shirts for a few days—much like how NYU’s Smell Dating works—and took note of which shirts the women liked.
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.
In the game of “which sense would you most be willing to lose? But evolutionarily, smell is one of the most important senses.
It helps us make sense of our environment by keeping us safe from spoiled food, for instance, and tipping us off to threats like fire or gas leaks.
The romantic part of me still can’t help thinking that smell communicates something deeper than what we can see, touch, hear or taste.
“The underlying theory is that you somehow 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.
It sounds like a gimmick, sure, but researchers believe that the nose plays a much larger role in our social lives than we realize. Dating has quickly become a visual enterprise; in 2005, very few Americans had tried online dating, but now 15% have, and technology like Tinder, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat reinforce the visual conventions that society says we should find attractive.
Smell Dating, then, is a throwback—a way to connect us, at long last, with our most basic, biological mating cues.
The human version of the MHC, called the human leukocyte antigen, or HLA, is also linked to a large number of olfactory receptors and appears to be particularly important for how we smell other people.
Like the MHC, the HLA has genes that influence how one’s immune system recognizes cells as belonging to oneself or an invader; HLA fit is one test used to determine whether or not an organ donor and recipient will be compatible.
It’s also a highly social sense, linked to memory, emotions and interactions with other people—encouraging us to draw closer or stay away.