Does scent attractiveness reveal women’s ovulatory timing? Evidence from signal detection analyses and endocrine predictors of odor attractiveness
Roney, James et al. (2022), Does scent attractiveness reveal women’s ovulatory timing? Evidence from signal detection analyses and endocrine predictors of odor attractiveness, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.612jm6451
Odor cues associated with shifts in ovarian hormones indicate ovulatory timing in females of many nonhuman species. Although prior evidence supports women’s body odors smelling more attractive on days when conception is possible, that research has left ambiguous how diagnostic of ovulatory timing odor cues are, as well as whether shifts in odor attractiveness are correlated with shifts in ovarian hormones. Here, 46 women each provided 6 overnight scent and corresponding day saliva samples spaced 5 days apart, and completed luteinizing hormone tests to determine ovulatory timing. Scent samples collected near ovulation were rated more attractive, on average, relative to samples from the same women collected on other days. Importantly, however, signal detection analyses showed that rater discrimination of fertile window timing from odor attractiveness ratings was very poor. Within-women shifts in salivary estradiol and progesterone were not significantly associated with within-women shifts in odor attractiveness. Between-women, mean estradiol was positively associated with mean odor attractiveness. Our findings suggest that raters cannot reliably detect women’s ovulatory timing from their scent attractiveness. The between-women effect of estradiol raises the possibility that women’s scents provide information about overall cycle fecundity, though further research is necessary to rigorously investigate this possibility.