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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 12:01 GMT
Mother-son bond linked by smell
Single man
Smell preferences are in our genes
Freud may have been right after all as research shows men are attracted to women who remind them of their mothers.

Scientists claim people looking for love are drawn to someone just like themselves and with the same smell as either of their parents.

To mark National Science Week, experts have tried to shed some light on what makes one person fall for another.

With so many millions of years of evolution behind us, why do we spend so much effort and money trying to cover up our natural smells?

Dr George Forster, Thinktank
Dr George Forster from Thinktank, the Museum of Science and Discovery in Birmingham, said: "In choosing a partner we are subconsciously assessing their evolutionary fitness to be a mother of children or father, provider and protector.

"This is an evolutionary view and of course it's much more complex than that.

"Our environment moulds our individual preferences, but there is increasing evidence that our genes play an important part in choosing our partners.

"I would say that on balance there is a pretty high probability that we choose someone with a somewhat similar physical and psychological profile to our own."

Dr Foster drew his conclusions from detailed analysis of previous research into how men and women are attracted to each other.

Opposites don't attract

One such study showed that women want a partner who reminds them of their father.

Scientists claimed that in a test involving sweaty T-shirts, women tended to prefer those worn by men with genes like their fathers.

The theory is that a man who smells similar to a woman's father is likely to have a compatible immune system.

The natural odours all humans produce are called pheromones.

They are influenced to a degree by a cluster of genes related to the immune system called the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC).

Dr Foster said: "With so many millions of years of evolution behind us, why do we spend so much effort and money trying to cover up our natural smells?"

A previous study also found opposites do not attract.

Dr Foster said people tend to prefer others with "a somewhat similar physical and psychological profile to our own".

See also:

21 Jan 02 | Health
Women sniff out ideal mates
15 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Did humans lose a sixth sense?
16 Dec 98 | Health
Putting pheromones on the map
16 Dec 98 | Health
The magic of sexual attraction
29 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Secrets of human attraction
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