The so-called 'love hormone' oxytocin, which is linked to a mother's tender feelings for her child and long-term devotion between partners, can play a crucial role in picking Mr (or Ms) Right, say researchers.
A new study has found that men and women who smell a whiff of oxytocin rate strangers as more attractive.
When oxytocin courses through our blood, "we are more likely to see people we don't know in a more positive light," says Angeliki Theodoridou, a psychologist at the University of Bristol, UK, and the study's lead researcher.
To reach the conclusion, scientists tested 96 men and women in a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, reports New Scientist.
After participants got either a spritz of oxytocin or a placebo, they rated pictures of 48 men and women for attractiveness and 30 for trustworthiness. Her team also tested for mood.
Following the procedure, researchers found that volunteers who received oxytocin rated male and female strangers as both more attractive and trusting.
Researchers did not examine how oxytocin could affect social judgements, but Theodoridou speculates that the hormone dampens brain activity in a region involved in processing fearful emotions, called the amygdala.
Although Theodoridou's study shows that oxytocin acts similarly on men and women when rating strangers, sex differences could emerge in real-world situations, says Jennifer Bartz, a psychologist at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York.
The study has been published in the journal Hormones and Behavior.