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You Can Smell a Person's Gender

Smell
(Photo : Flickr: Edward Simpson)

Humans can detect a person's gender through smell alone, even if they don't know they are doing it, a recent study suggests.

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The study, published in Current Biology details how people are often intrinsically able to identify the gender they are attracted to through smell alone, regardless of their own sexual orientation.

To reach this conclusion, researchers exposed subjects to male, female, or neutral sent without their knowledge of what they were. Two of the smells were actually refined versions of male or female hormones. The male hormone used, androstadienone, is a steroid product of testosterone; and the female hormone used, estratetraenol, is a steroid product of estrogen.

While being exposed to a smell, the participants were then asked to watch a video of a series of dots that outlined a figure walking. The participants were then asked to determine whether the walking dots had a more masculine or feminine gait.

Interestingly, when straight males were exposed to the female smell, the consistently identified the gait of the dots as feminine. Likewise, when straight females and homosexual men were exposed to the male smell, the consistently identified the gait of the dots as masculine in nature.

Interestingly, bisexual participants and homosexual women were not nearly as predicable, attributing a variety of natures to the gaits regardless of what scent they were exposed to.

What exactly does this mean? While the researchers explain that, due to a relatively small sample size, they cannot come to any definitive conclusion about the link between sexual preference and smell, they are able to conclude that smell most certainly is associated with a person's perception of gender, although no cause-and-effect relationship has been established.

This also indicated that humans are not as far from our animal neighbors as we might think. Most mammals make use of their ability to distinguish gender through smell alone; although some species, like rodents, often have difficulty differentiating a male humans from males of their own kind. It remains to be seen if the human nose is a little more accurate when it come to species distinction.

The study was published in Current Biology, a Cell publication, on May 1.

May 01, 2014 05:31 PM EDT

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