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Motion-capture research: Men have a nose for women

Study using special-effects style motion-capture suits with LEDs at the joints concludes that smell influences whether someone determines that an apparently androgynous human is male or female.

I don't know about you, but I'm rather partial to a nice smell. Somehow, some people just offer a better odor than others, and one reacts to them more positively because of that.

I am heartened, therefore, to get a sniff of research performed at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

According to National Geographic, the Academy was very interested to see just how animal-like we really are. The academy wondered whether we really are sophisticated in our choice of sex partners, or whether we are, indeed, just like the others on Orwell's farm.

Naturally, if they had called here first, I could have told them. However, they decided to film people in those lovely motion-capture suits, adorned with LEDs at every joint. The sort that Tiger Woods wears before going to bed--I mean, before EA shoots another golfing video game featuring his rippling body.

Then, with a little dot manipulation, these figures were made to look neither male, nor female, not even like Carey Mulligan or Tyler Lautner.

Researchees of both sexes were then invited to watch videos of these characters while sniffing various substances, none of which would stick your model plane back together.

CC Kevin Spencer/Flickr

Some were given clove oil that was infused with androstadienone--not to be confused with one of Mark McGuire's more favored aromas, androstenedione. Androstadienone is a mere male pheromone. The female pheromone used in this research was estratetraenol, which is, indeed, a steroid.

Some, however, were given a neutral smell--ordinary clove oil.

You will be stunned into June when I tell you that the men who were sniffing female pheromones believed the figures in the videos to be female, while, vice versa, the sniffing also held true.

In order to ensure that the pheromones didn't physically smell female or male, the researchers reportedly tested whether, for example, the infused clove oil smelled somehow different to the researchees from the plain clove oil. It did not.

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It appears that men were so moved by the power of the pheromone that, even when shown images of an androgynous figure that was more clearly male, those who had sniffed the female pheromone were still prone to insist that it was actually a female.

It seems, therefore, that we are merely animals, couching our feelings and choices in wonderful explanations to our shrinks, but driven by very basic triggers, the kind that, say, Roy Rogers' Trigger was also driven by.