Penn State Professor: Ideologically Similar People Could be Attracted Because of Their…Smells
This oughta fill up your weird news quota for the day: Penn State political science professor Peter Hatemi, along with researchers from Harvard and Brown, theorized that liberals and conservatives could be attracted to other liberals and conservatives because of their distinct smells.
Their article, “Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues,” cited by the Washington Post, seeks to explain why liberals so often match with liberals in long-term relationships and vice versa. The article said people on either side of the ideological aisle have smells that also signal other functions, like defense against outgroups and social cohesion. That, in turn, is related to ideology.
Here are the excerpts pulled by the Post:
[According to the researchers,] 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. These underlying, physically experienced predilections can come to be expressed as opinions on such topics as abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, and a host of other ideological topics.
If social attitudes are linked to odor [..] then one mechanism that odor preferences transfer from parents to children may operate through their mother’s choice of mate. In this way, social processes may drive some of the pathways by which individuals come to prefer those whose ideological “smell” matches their own.
Hatemi and his fellow researchers asked a group to rate the smells of other people, and those who shared the same ideology approved of the others’ smells more often. The researchers did note that the finding was only barely statistically significant, so it shouldn’t be taken as fact. But if you’re a lonely ideologue, maybe keep your nose open some more?