The role of body odors and olfactory ability in the initiation, maintenance and breakdown of romantic relationships – A review

Mehmet K. Mahmut*, Ilona Croy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Citation (Scopus)


The aim of this review is to present direct and indirect lines of converging evidence that highlight the many ways our body odors and sense of smell may influence the three broad stages of romantic relationships; initiation, maintenance and breakdown. This emerging area of study requires a multidisciplinary empirical approach. Here we survey research findings that taken together, suggest that body odor perception moderates mate choice, provides a source of comfort in existing relationships and may signal the breakdown of a relationship through disgust processes. In terms of olfactory ability, having a good sense of smell may facilitate identifying a healthy mate, enhance sexual experiences, relationship security and ensure empathic responsivity, predictors of relationship longevity. We therefore conclude that olfaction plays an important – yet understudied – role in romantic relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-184
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


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