Today\’s News Yesterday

The Times, Feb 11:

Sniffing someone\’s armpits does not sound the most promising start to a date. Research, however, suggests that it will probably turn up a better prospect than either a blind date or gabbling nervously to 20 consecutive strangers. Now a new dating website,, promises a discreet way of letting you nose out potential partners.

Researchers found more than a decade ago – by asking female students to sniff T-shirts worn by men – that ovulating women rate certain male body odours as sexier than others. Crucially, the preferences depended on a certain part of the immune system called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Women, it turned out, were bewitched by the odours of men whose MHC genes were most different from their own, and repelled by the aroma of men with similar MHC genes.

The Blog, Jan 14:

No, really, the way to a happy love life is sniffing the t-shirt of your intended date.

The thing is that we are programmed to find attractive those who have an immune system complimentary to our own. And the evidence of such is contained in the pheromones that we throw out in our sweat, meaning that sniffing a t-shirt which has been worn for three days can give us some guidance (ie, whether we like the smell or not) as to whether we would find the person attractive. This is also a reason why those pheromone scents in a bottle don’t in fact work: the opposite sex is looking for subtle scents compatible with their own, rather than a generalised blast of general human hormones.

Slightly spoiled this trimphalism is by noting that we\’re both just lifting the story from The Economist.

1 thought on “Today\’s News Yesterday”

  1. Scientists have known about it for ages. A lot of mammals can do it and members of other vertebrate groups also show evidence of it. It’s also a mechanism of identifying kin by comparing how differently they smell from you (self-matching). Human parents can identify their children by such means. Though as the recent example of siblings marrying showed, such kin recognition mechanisms are modulated by early life experience and so if that is disrupted so too is their efficacy.

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