Preference and Gender Associations of Perfumes Applied on Human Skin


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The perception of fragrances has been a growing field of interest, where perfumes classified as either typically feminine or typically masculine primarily have been used as stimuli. The current study explored gender associations and preferences of more “unisex” perfumes found in the middle of a gender continuum of fragrances, both when the fragrances were applied on humans, and when they were presented in glass bottles. Blindfolded participants indicated if they wanted to use the fragrances themselves, if they wanted their partner to use the perfumes, scaled gender associations (femininity and masculinity) for each perfume and tried to guess the gender of the person each perfume was applied on when not presented in a bottle. Results show that the gender of the person that the perfume was applied on did not affect the participants' preference or their gender scaling. Moreover, the preference did not differ between female and male participants, indicating that the commercial gender categorization is less important to the perfume consumers.

Practical Implications

On the commercial market, most perfumes are classified as either feminine or masculine, although the odor quality of feminine and masculine odors are overlapping and constitute a continuum rather than two separate clusters of odors. Earlier research has shown that participants tend to prefer perfumes positioned in the middle of this gender continuum. The current study investigates gender associations and preferences of perfumes from the middle of the gender continuum while these are applied on humans. When blindfolded participants evaluated their perception of the perfumes in this study, it became clear that neither the gender of the humans that the perfumes were applied on, nor the commercial gender labeling of the perfumes were important to their perception. Consequently, the commercial gender categorization does not seem to be sufficient for all perfumes. Instead, the classification of perfumes could be according to other aspects, e.g., according to odor quality.