Europeans consider the smell of Chanel perfume pleasant, while the Papuans of New Guinea hate it, but they adore the aroma of pork fat. Why do different cultures evaluate smell differently, what role do scents play in our lives, how do we choose a partner based on our own scent, and why should married couples not sleep under the same blanket? About this - in our material.
The world of smells
Many animals evaluate each other not by external data, but by smell. Look at your dog reading the tags of other dogs in the yard. With the help of only one scent, she can understand that a new dog has appeared in the house, and the neighbor's bitch is in heat.
Surprisingly, even beautiful butterflies recognize each other primarily by their scent. The motley appearance of a beautiful Lepidoptera is not important to the male: the main thing is its smell. They are not able to identify each other outwardly and fish, but they recognize representatives of their own species with the help of their sense of smell. And by the way, predators too. Other animals use the same mechanisms.
Renowned anthropologist Marina Butovskaya in her book Body Language: Nature and Culture tells about an interesting experiment that was carried out in Kuwait in 1995: “The government of this country imported wolf urine from Sweden. Highways and city streets were treated with this urine to force the camels to stay away. The experiment was quite a success: the smell of wolf urine had a deterrent effect on camels, and the number of accidents on the roads from collisions between cars and camels sharply decreased.
Pheromones are different. Sex attractants are responsible for attraction to the opposite sex. Odmichnions are marks with the help of which the animal finds its way to the house or prey, with them the animals mark their territory (with their help, for example, "smart" ants inform their relatives not only that there is a dead caterpillar nearby, but also that how to get there). Toribones stand out in case of danger and indicate fear and anxiety. With their help, the relatives of the injured animal will learn about the danger that the place where he was attacked may be. Lichnevmon disguise animals as a different species (help to escape from predators). Etophions are pheromones of behavior, with their help you can send various signals to other individuals.
For a huge number of animals, the world around them is the world of smells. We are used to thinking that the sense of smell has a very indirect meaning for us. On the one hand, there is some truth in this. Many primates also perceive the world primarily by smell. These are the so-called strepsirin (galago, sifaki, loris, lemurs, aeons, and so on).
We, along with marmosets, macaques, chimpanzees or gorillas, belong to the haplorin suborder, for which visual images and sound play the greatest role. The olfactory lobes of our brain are small, and the turbinates are poorly developed. But that doesn’t mean we don’t use our nose. We use it - and how. It's just that the information that we read by smell remains outside of our consciousness, so we are not used to thinking about any serious role of smell in our life. But science proves otherwise.
Pheromones and all-all-all
Scientists believe that humans have an even finer sense of smell than monkeys. This is due to the fact that a person's cognitive abilities are more developed.Our brains are able to extract more information from the aromas around it than the brains of other primates.
The pleasant smell of food can not only whet the appetite, but also plays a huge role in the very process of eating it. People with impaired sense of smell are known to have little or no taste in food. But the most important role in our knowledge of the world is played by the smell of potential sexual partners. At the same time, we inhale not only the perfume of another person - first of all we are interested in the aroma of his body. Moreover, we just need to inhale the natural smell of another (even if we are not aware of it), although our culture tries to mask it. However, the smell of perfume is also pleasant to us, so we tend to pay attention to it - otherwise the perfume corporations would simply go broke, and the girls would not drench themselves with perfume so abundantly.
Numerous studies show that the male pheromone that increases attractiveness in the eyes of women is androstenol, while androstenone, on the contrary, gives rise to a repulsive impression. Both substances are found in the natural secretions of men.
The smell of our body is primarily the smell of sweat, although genital secretions play an important role. Each person has his own unique aroma: it consists of a certain combination of valeric, nylon, caprylic, butyric and other acids. It depends on genes, and determines its chemical structure of pheromones - substances that are secreted by the glands of external secretion. With the help of pheromones, we, like other living things, communicate with each other at the chemical level.
Don't sleep under the same blanket
Despite the fact that many of us hardly think about the role of smell in the process of choosing a sexual partner, scientists believe that it is not only important, but perhaps even plays a major role in the sexual attractiveness of both men and women. Have you ever wondered why people who have quite a dull appearance sometimes enjoy great success with the opposite sex? An important role here, of course, can be played by inner charm and many other behavioral characteristics. But the odor factor is also not excluded.
One of the explanations why married couples lose sexual interest in each other, among other things, is that they … sleep under the same blanket. It has been proven that in this case, people experience fatigue in certain areas of the brain that are associated with sexual desire, due to the high concentration of sex attractants, which is formed under the blanket.
“The American writer HG Wells had a very ordinary appearance. And nevertheless, being still unknown to anyone, he enjoyed immense popularity among women. One of his colleagues could not understand for a long time what the secret of this success was. Once, unable to bear it, he asked a lady in love with Wells what she found in him. She closed her eyes and blissfully replied: "He smells like honey," - gives an example in his book "In the world of smells and sounds" Doctor of Medical Sciences Sergei Ryazantsev.
Marina Butovskaya tells about another case related to a famous character. “According to historical information, Napoleon preferred body odor to all perfumes. It was the smell of the body that had a particularly exciting effect on him. Returning from another campaign, he sent Josephine a letter with a messenger: "I am going - stop washing," she writes.
Scientists have found that people who have undergone plastic surgery in the area of the vomeronasal organ (it is located near the tip of the nose, on the septum), often lose their libido. A number of men develop impotence in such cases. Sergei Ryazantsev describes a case when he observed a patient who completely lost interest in the opposite sex, having lost the ability to smell.
I recognize you from a thousand
Research shows that we rate a sexual partner as more attractive if we like their scent.Marina Butovskaya says that such a feature may be needed in order to “read” the set of genes of a potential partner and thus avoid inbreeding. On a conscious level, we often choose the other half on the basis of similarity - for example, in terms of intelligence, education, or growth. Everything is exactly the opposite when our nose comes into play: everything happens solely on the basis of difference. Of course, not only our sense of smell, but also sight and hearing are involved in this most complicated process. But the smell, surprisingly, plays an important role, and perhaps one of the first.
“The attractiveness of men by smell changes depending on the menstrual cycle of women,” writes Butovskaya. - During the period of maximum receptivity, the sexuality of a man's scent positively correlates with the attractiveness of his face and is negatively associated with body asymmetry (in three ways: ear height and width, foot width). This means that women in the period of maximum probability of conception prefer the scent of men with the greatest visual appeal and symmetry. On the contrary, in the phase of minimal receptivity, men with the most attractive appearance smell the least sexy for women."
Scientists have shown that women have a greater sense of smell than men, so smell plays a significant role for them. Some representatives of the beautiful half of humanity, as some studies show, are able to choose a partner mainly by scent, while for men, the main role is still played by the appearance of a lady.
Although her scent can also have a big impact on a man. It has been proven, for example, that women who are in the ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle are more attractive to men. The fact is that at the peak of ovulation, the female body releases the maximum number of copulins - female pheromones that increase attractiveness. The vomeronasal organ of the latter "reads" information about the number of copulins, although this happens absolutely unconsciously.
Smell of someone else's
We need our scent not only for choosing a loved one, but also for communication in general (for example, people are able to read the “smell of fear” from the interlocutor), and also to identify “ours” and “strangers”. Scientists have found that we are, in principle, able to distinguish each other by smell. And not only adults, but also babies. It has been shown that mother and child can recognize each other by smell from the very first days after birth. By the age of three to six, children are able to identify their brothers and sisters by smell, and adults - their sexual partners.
And yes, do not think that the scent of newfangled perfume, pleasant in one culture, will also be pleasant in another. Like the canons of beauty, different ethnic groups also differ in the “canons” of the pleasant smell. Chanel perfume used by Europeans repels representatives of traditional cultures. For example, the residents of New Guinea. But they love the smell of pork fat, since pork is considered the best dish. Russians do not like the aroma of fried herring, but the Vietnamese adore it, since this ingredient is an important component of their national dish.
In Western culture, the smell of sweat is considered unpleasant and repulsive, but in the same traditional societies - the opposite. People strive not only to demonstrate their natural scent, but they want to literally "share" it with their neighbors. “Among the Gijingali, one of the Australian tribes of Arnhem Land (a peninsula in northern Australia. - Author's note), a man, saying goodbye to another man, rubs his hands under his armpits, and then rubs his friend's sides with the smell of his sweat. In the process of the trance dance of the Bushmen, the dancers transfer their sweat from the armpit and from the face to the patient,”writes Marina Butovskaya.
Contrary to popular stereotype, women sweat more than men.The first in their lives emit an average of 20 thousand liters of sweat, the second - 18 thousand. The most important source of body odor is the armpits.
But even some European peoples still retain archaic traditions similar to those of primitive peoples. So, in some regions of Austria and the Mediterranean, young guys dance with a handkerchief under their armpits, and then wave it in front of the girls' faces. It is possible that such a ritual among these peoples plays a decisive role in the creation of new cells of society. The world of smells controls us much more than we think.