New research finds that men who are perceived as low in masculinity by women can significantly improve this opinion by simply applying deodorant.
Interestingly, researchers discovered application of deodorant did not enhance perceptions of masculinity among men who already have high levels of masculinity. Nor does deodorant improve one’s standing with fellow men.
In the new study, researchers investigated what effect wearing deodorant has on assessing masculinity and femininity.
Researchers examined how 130 men and women rated facial masculinity and femininity using photographs. Additionally, 239 men and women rated odor samples of 40 opposite sex individuals.
The research confirmed that women appear to be, in some way, more sensitive or attentive to odor cues than men.
All women who were wearing deodorant were rated as significantly more feminine-smelling by both men and women, compared to when they had no deodorant on. This supports the idea that fragrance may be used, as other cosmetics appear to be, to enhance potentially biologically evolved preferences.
However, without deodorant men rated by women with high and low facial masculinity received significantly different ratings of odor masculinity. Then, once a deodorant was applied, the two groups of men became indistinguishable in terms of their rated levels of masculinity.
Men who were low in face masculinity significantly increased their odor masculinity by applying a deodorant, but the highly masculine men showed no increase after deodorant application.
Dr. Caroline Allen, psychology researcher at the University of Stirling, who led the study, explains that fragrances are often marketed as being feminine or masculine. “Old Spice, for instance, has recently parodied this with hyper-masculine advertisements, claiming that their product will allow you to smell like a super masculine guy.”
“Our study found that when women apply a deodorant it does increase their rated body odor femininity, as would be expected. Though it seems as though something else is at play when it comes to male body odor and male deodorants.
Only those men who were rated low in masculinity to start with showed a significant increase after applying their deodorants, and the men who were highly masculine initially showed no increase after deodorant application.
“This means that men are able to use deodorant to artificially raise their game so to speak, leveling the playing field by making themselves comparable, at least as far as odor is concerned, to more masculine men.
Our evolutionary preferences have likely shaped this difference in fragrance design. Research findings now show that we actually don’t like high levels of masculinity which are often associated with aggressiveness and hostility, but we show no upper limit on our femininity preferences.”
The new study appears in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.