A new study titled “Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues” reveals that people find the smell of others with similar political opinions to be attractive, suggesting that one of the reasons why so many spouses share similar political views is because they were initially and subconsciously attracted to each other’s body odor.
“Olfaction correlates in specific ways with differing political preferences through genetic and biological mechanisms similar to those employed in choice of sexual partners, ” the study suggests. Spouses and long-term partners appear to be more similar in their political preferences than almost any other trait. This affinity exists prior to marriage, and the length of marriage appears to have little effect on spousal similarity in ideology.”
During the study, 146 participants rated the attractiveness of the body odor of unknown strong liberals and strong conservatives, without ever seeing the individuals whose smells they were evaluating.
“People could not predict the political ideology of others by smell if you asked them, but they differentially found the smell of those who aligned with them more attractive. So I believe smell conveys important information about long-term affinity in political ideology that becomes incorporated into a key component of subconscious attraction, ” said Dr. Rose McDermott, lead author of the American Journal of Political Science study.
According to the study, smell helps individuals choose mates because the sense can signal possible social and biological behaviors, such as disease avoidance, disgust sensitivity, cheater detection and social cohesion.
“For example, greater disgust sensitivity, which is intimately interconnected with the neural substrates of smell, predicts more conservative positions, particularly around issues involving morality and sexual reproduction, ” the article notes.
“The findings that attitudes are not only socially driven, but are equally informed by genetic and neurobiological mechanisms may provide valuable insight into understanding some of the foundations of assortative mating on the basis of political ideology, ” the new study suggests. “A growing body of evidence reveals that the mechanisms that account for differences in ideological attitudes are genetically and biologically influenced and conscript olfactory processes. In this research note, we integrate these lines of inquiry and reveal that people find the smell of ideologically similar others more attractive, thereby providing preliminary evidence suggesting that one of the mechanisms by which political assortative mating occurs is through subconscious sexual attraction to variant body odors.”