It’s also a highly social sense, linked to memory, emotions and interactions with other people—encouraging us to draw closer or stay away.The nose also deserves credit for much of our pleasure, especially when it comes to another of our chemical senses: taste.
Their odor preferences were indeed linked to the partner having just the right kind of HLA. “There are so many things going on with humans, in terms of how you select somebody you want to be with or get married to or have children with,” says Gary Beauchamp, emeritus director and president of the Monell Chemical Senses Center.In the game of “which sense would you most be willing to lose? But evolutionarily, smell is one of the most important senses.It helps us make sense of our environment by keeping us safe from spoiled food, for instance, and tipping us off to threats like fire or gas leaks.The human version of the MHC, called the human leukocyte antigen, or HLA, is also linked to a large number of olfactory receptors and appears to be particularly important for how we smell other people.Like the MHC, the HLA has genes that influence how one’s immune system recognizes cells as belonging to oneself or an invader; HLA fit is one test used to determine whether or not an organ donor and recipient will be compatible.
It sounds like a gimmick, sure, but researchers believe that the nose plays a much larger role in our social lives than we realize. Dating has quickly become a visual enterprise; in 2005, very few Americans had tried online dating, but now 15% have, and technology like Tinder, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat reinforce the visual conventions that society says we should find attractive.