We are not consciously noting the smells of other people all day long, unless a particularly good or bad smell hits us, but odors are working on us, even when we don't realize it.
"Humans are influenced much more strongly by ovulatory cues than we tend to think," Maner explained. "For the most part, people aren't likely to be consciously aware of the effects ovulatory cues have over them. There is solid evidence that people find the scent of ovulation to be pleasant and attractive (relative to the scent of a woman who is far from ovulation), but beyond that, most of the behavioral and hormonal effects are likely to occur below the conscious radar."
Prior research found that men's testosterone levels are also sensitive to female ovulation. For example, in one of Maner's earlier studies, men who interacted with a female research assistant became more risk-taking and flirtatious when the assistant was in the high fertility stage of her menstrual cycle.
Such under-the-radar hormone dynamics might even influence what men and women wear.
Daniel Farrelly of the University of Sunderland and colleagues found that men who chose to wear red when competing had higher levels of testosterone than men who chose to wear blue.
"The research shows that there is something special about the color red in competition, and that it is associated with our underlying biological systems," Farrelly said.
In all cases, it appears that today's human social interactions can be driven by how we've evolved as primates.
"Some people might like to believe that people aren't animals, or at least that our behavior isn't beholden to the same biological processes as other species," Maner said.
"But humans," he added, "are very similar to other species in many ways, and those similarities are no more apparent than when it comes to sexuality."