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Scent Of A Woman: Evolution, Ovulation And Attraction

The scent of fertility: new research in evolutionary psychology and the science of attraction.

(greekadman/flickr)

(greekadman/flickr)

We meet. We mate. We stay true. We don’t.

We think we’re driving the process, but a raft of new research in the science of attraction says we may be far more driven by biology and evolution that we know. Driven by cycles and chemical interaction and the literal scent of fertility.

We think of animals as raw pawns of biology. Now, evolutionary psychology is reminding us once again that we are animals too, plus high-minded creatures.

The mere scent of an ovulating woman can drive more reactions than you may guess, without us understanding why.

This hour On Point: the new science of attraction.

- Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Jon Maner, professor of psychology at Florida State University.

Martie Haselton, professor in the departments of Communication Studies and Psychology at UCLA.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Zinovy Vayman, the Galilee

    There is terrible inequality. There are sperm banks but no ovules credit unions in the USA including the Virgin Islands.
    There are feeble attempts to change the similar situation in the tiny State of Israel.

    • Pancake Rankin

      Is it anti-Semitic to theorize Israel is financializing hording eggs?

      • Oso

        BEST. COMMENT. ON THIS THREAD. Can we get any sperm bank conspiracy theorists to contribute? Are any of them too big to fail?

  • Cory

    In marriage and relationships, our animal instincts do not always serve us well. My relationship with my wife was born from raw physical attraction. Getting to know her deeply came later. There is something backward about this on an intellectual level. We aren’t always physically attracted to the one who will be our ideal “soul mate”.

    • young college Republican

      So…now that , by your own admission, you’re overweight and underemployed, does your wife still have that raw attraction for you? Or does she go on “vacation” like Hendrickson’s?

  • Ed

    One interesting study cited by Janet Smith is that the pill changes the people women choose as partners. We communicate through hormones, and when they are messed up, we can’t communicate properly.

  • Pancake Rankin

    Hoo-hah!

  • Michael

    The saying was that in the first 6 seconds a women has already decided if she will sleep with a guy. But almost in all relationships looks play a part first than, say money/fame/connections

  • Beth

    As an evolutionary anthropologist, I am apprehensive about the content of this program already. If we’re talking about the evolution of HUMAN attraction and behavior, shouldn’t there be an actual anthropologist or at least an evolutionary biologist on this panel? Evolutionary psychology is considered on the fringe of a lot of this scientific inquiry, and I find the data presented on much of this research to be limited in its interpretive significance.

    • ThresherK

      Yeah, I’ve read enough about “evo psych” to make me not trust it implicitly.

  • http://twitter.com/Dave_Eger Dave Eger

    Twice I’ve had girlfriends who became less attractive when they started taking the pill.

  • Beth

    Tom, please ask the panel to discuss their sampling strategy. Who are the participants in their studies? Overwhelmingly, participants tend to be college students; I would suggest that, diverse as this population may be, it does not represent the full scope of human variation now or for our history as a species.

  • Candy

    My husband and I fall into the instant reaction relationship. But, our relationship was always sometimes volitile. And, without documentation I can say, without doubt, that some of our worst arguments and disagreements were just before my period started. Not during it! Now, that I’m in menopause, it has lessened. Can your experts speak to this.

  • Dan

    I was under the impression that people smell good or bad to one another based on their genetic resistiveness to different pathogens? How does that play into this?

    -dan
    Boston, MA

  • Ben

    Great show Tom,

    Did Martie find any confounding effect of birth control on her resutlts?

  • Ellen Dibble

    I’m wondering if testosterone counters depression, if there is a hormonal dimension to depression. It certainly seems testosterone is linked to intentional activities, pursuit of a mate, so I’m thinking a man surrounded by ovulating women would be protected from depression. Lucky stiffs. Or it could have the opposite effect and intensify a depressive tilt, a kind of in-built quandary.

  • Jdsmith02115

    The only thing that surprises me about these “revelations”, is why this is so surprising to anyone at all. To me it all seems absolutely obvious. Why people need to believe themselves beyond or above these natural phenomena, is truly beyond me.

  • Beth

    Actually, there is a lot of variation in the social structure and mating patterns of apes, including humans. To suggest that monogamous pair-bonding is an evolved human trait ignores this variation. Moreover, babies benefit from lots of adults caring for them, whether those adults are older siblings, aunties, uncles, grandparents, etc. This argument tends to be described as “just so” in my field.

    • Pancake Rankin

      Posts by Greg and Michael may be of related interest.

  • Willfinch

    What about menapause and the use of Viagra to keep the sex drive alive.

  • Michael

    I heard studies that humans staying in relationships and being monogamous are actually unnatural.

    Here’s an interview with Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn, where he discusses the anthropology of sexuality and how we know that monogamy is not the natural state of human beings.

    It makes so much sense to people who look around and say, “That’s the central exchange in the relationships in my life.” So they project it into prehistory, something I call “Flintstonization,” and assume that’s how it’s always been. It’s comforting for people who want to keep the status quo.

    The trouble with it is that we’ve found that in prehistoric times — before our society became agrarian — there was no reason women had to trade sexual autonomy. Everything was shared, from sexual partners to childcare. This central conclusion concerning monogamy is just not backed up.

    francoistremblay. wordpress./ 2011/02/15/author-christopher-ryan-humans-are-not-naturally-monogamous/

    • Anonymous

      And with the change to an agrarian economy, all sorts of other social relationships were necessary.

      And why is looking at primates or fossils a better guide than looking at, for example, Xhosa (monogamous) or Zulu (not monogamous)? (From memory, I may be wrong, but we could pick another hunter-gatherer tribe that is monogamous or agrarian or semi-agrarian tribe that isn’t.) There is a wide variety of human behavior, so all we can conclude is that little is genetically determined but rather a range of behaviors are allowed and the social structures determine what actually happens.

      But humans are social individuals. That’s different from ants, who die if separated from the nest, or some kinds of cats, who come together only to mate but are otherwise completely solitary. Part of being human is the group. Family, tribe, gang, company, country, whatever. If your tribe is monogamous, you are monogamous (at least mostly), and that’s natural, and it’s also the way it’s always been. If it’s a polyandrous tribe, then you are also, and that’s the way it’s always been.

      And in human relationships, what’s this natural/unnatural distinction? I think this is a false dichotomy. With the evolutionary disappearance of estrus, mating became a much more social phenomenon. (In fact, mating has become pretty social among chimpanzees and bonobos, including not during estrus, which are pretty closely related to humans, even though the estrus cycle remains.) Social phenomena are natural to people.

    • Pancake Rankin

      See my reply to Greg. We agree.
      Pancake

    • David Holzman

      My parents–54 years, until my mother died
      My maternal aunt and uncle–same
      My paternal uncle and aunt–60 years until parted by death.

      I know my father never had an affair from a story he told after my mother died. When my mother was on her deathbed, he’d look at her with his eyes wide as if it was only last week she’d walked into the boring statistics class on his first day of grad school and say, “she’s so beautiful.” I’m 99% sure none of the others had affairs.

      Most of the marriages in my immediate and extended family have been long term. Most of my parents’ friends had 50-plus year marriages, and a lot of my friends have long-term marriages.

  • Anonymous

    Do men who have a partner who is post breeding years react the same way as one who has the biological incentive to not risk the family unit raising his children? Does this decrease as his children age?

  • Anonymous

    Do men who have a partner who is post breeding years react the same way as one who has the biological incentive to not risk the family unit raising his children? Does this decrease as his children age?

  • Linda Arena

    You’re focusing on ovulation as a huge unseen attraction. Are there secondary biological reactions that come into play for women after menopause? Do men go through a biological shift hormonally that decreases their responses as they age? – Linda in Westborough

  • Christian

    Are there any practical applications to this line of research and discovery?

    • Anonymous

      Most likely marketing targeted to a woman’s fertility cycle. Your iPhone can measure this and alert salespeople to show you skimpier dresses on fertile days. Banner ads. You can share you fertility status on social networks.

      • Oso

        Holy crap! I was thinking the exact opposite! We should use data like this to create laws that limit the powers of big business to exploit our sexual tendencies. If freedom means anything it ought to be freedom from puppet masters.

  • Catherins

    I can tell you, as a 30 something woman, that when I’m ovulating the heads turn. Men open doors, buy me drinks, etc. more than at other times. I’d bet any woman who pays attention (and isn’t on the pill) would report the same.

  • Jay

    Could you ask your guests to comment on any similar research into same sex attraction–both male and female? As a gay man, I can attest to the fact this physical attraction (same sex) is real, and also has a great range of high to low attraction.

    -Jay
    Boston

    • Anonymous

      Well, I will guarantee you’re not attracted to men who are ovulating. Yet.

    • Lana

       I am a lesbian It totally does! I only bother going out to look for dates when I’m ovulating because women respond better to me. and funny thing I know more than a few women who only call me up at “certain” times in their cycles and show no interest otherwise. to me it is obvious.
      -Lana

  • Jeannine

    I met my husband 26 years ago at a party. I’m an average looking woman, but that night I had 3 men fighting to sit next to me at the game table. It was not the kind of thing that ever happened before or since. We used to joke that God put a new face on me because it was the only way Marc would notice me. When we heard of this ovulation theory, we are now convinced that I was ovulating. Thank God I was, we have a wonderful marriage.

  • Andrea

    Does this mean I’m really as unattractive as I feel when pregnant?

    • Anonymous

      No.

      When you’re pregnant you emit an enirely different (well, no, somewhat different) set of pheromones. Enough different that this study is, for all practical purposes, irrelevant.

      Evolutionarily, we would expect them to make you especially attractive to the men (and possibly women) who would help raise the children.

  • Marshall

    When my partner is ovulating I am always able to tell because she actually looks different to me. Her facial features are flattered, her eyes bigger, face slimmer, her figure is fuller in all the desired places and she generally seems to have a glow about her. We have been together 12 years but in the past few years, this has become increasingly more obvious to me.

    Can your guest speak to whether sensitivity to pheromones increases over long periods of time/contact?

    • new civility

      Big deal…my wife turns into Kim Kardashian

  • Ddean

    Men in relationships may actually think and feel differently about what they are attracted to as opposed to feeling threatened by someone when they are attractive….The body produces a different hormone profile when pair bonding (vasopressin and oxycontin?). Can this affect perspective as opposed to just loyalty? How do you know the difference, and why are you reporting just one interpretation?

    • Beth

      Close! It’s oxytocin (oxycontin is aka hillbilly heroin)

  • Greg

    The widespread occurrence of matrilineal societies (the majority of Native American farming societies, for example), where a woman’s brother serves as the male role-model for her children instead of her husband, does not support the hypothesis that monogamy is an evolutionary adaptation of Homo sapiens. Nor, to a lesser extent, does the presence of marked sexual dimorphism in our species or polygyny in our societies.

    • Pancake Rankin

      You are way sharp, Greg. Have you read Lewis Henry Morgan and Frederick Engels on this subject? What you assume totally undermines the modern capitalist nuclear family concept. If you and I are correct the nuclear family may be a prison of conformity and forced consumption. Corporate capitalism reeks.

      • Greg

        While nuclear families seem to be adaptive to a need for economic mobility, be it among foragers (chasing water/animals/plants) or in industrial states (chasing jobs), there is a strong bias that what is normal in our society is normal because it is instinctive. My point is that there are other equally wide-spread options that are equally adaptive.

  • Greg

    The widespread occurrence of matrilineal societies (the majority of Native American farming societies, for example), where a woman’s brother serves as the male role-model for her children instead of her husband, does not support the hypothesis that monogamy is an evolutionary adaptation of Homo sapiens. Nor, to a lesser extent, does the presence of marked sexual dimorphism in our species or polygyny in our societies.

  • TSchafer

    When I was ovulating, I had terrible middleschmertz cramps. These freight trains would plow through my abdomen every 6 hours or so creating acute pain. Have any subjects experienced this phenomena and, if so, how did this affect their attractiveness? I have to believe that grimacing in pain had to have an adverse affect.

  • TSchafer

    When I was ovulating, I had terrible middleschmertz cramps. These freight trains would plow through my abdomen every 6 hours or so creating acute pain. Have any subjects experienced this phenomena and, if so, how did this affect their attractiveness? I have to believe that grimacing in pain had to have an adverse affect.

  • Stev

    As a gay (and married) man, I’m curious as to how these studies might pertain to gays and lesbians?

  • Sara

    I have a very consistent cycle, and I can always tell when I’m ovulating. Sometimes I have subtle physical changes– rounder in the ‘right’ places, for example– but most I just feel sexier. I don’t know how men react, but I know how it feels to wake up in the morning and think, “Damn, I look good! Guess it’s that time of the month.”

  • Akkasha2

    I have always enjoyed a shift in hormones when my cycle begins. Everything smooths out and I feel wonderful emotionally. Leading up to ovulation is a juicier, sexier time of my cycle, then those desires begin to drop off again. My husband is quite aware of my cycles – more sex in the beginning and more likely to get punched the last seven to ten days of my cycle! At 53, my cycles still regular but the peaks are lessoning. I will miss ovulating when menopause arrives!

  • John

    i diagree that it is unconscience, being married for 7 years i have become more aware of cues due to that fact i am committed. i am still attracted to women but for different reasons, i am conscience of the fact and so are single men. to say we have no control or do not notice such cues is a copout for not being responsible in a choice.

  • Ddean

    The assumption appears to be that women change their preferences during their cycle, yet men have the same preference whether they are in a relationship or not and kid themsleves. If that is the case, what is the direct evidence? I worry that we are making assumptions about what goes on in the head based on gender stereotypes. This has the potential to be unfair to both of us.

  • GSM

    I don’t see why your guest speaker says that the changes occurring around ovulation are not noticeable. My husband and I use Fertility Awareness as our method of family planning. I use temperature charting (basal temp), cervical fluid observation, and cervical observation (via palpation) to determine when I ovulate. I can usually tell within a few hours when I have ovulated. It is obvious to both me and my husband even without formal charting, just because we have become good observers.

    I am absolutely a different woman when I ovulate! I have increased sexual urges, my husband is more attentive and even my children seem to notice that my breast milk changes with my monthly cycles.

    I would recommend to any woman that she get to know her body as well as I have. I think one downside of oral contraceptives, which I used throughout my adult life until I was wanting to have children, is that it means that we no longer need to pay attention to our natural cycles. It’s a good skill to have. Sometimes my first sign of an approaching illness or a warning that I am too stressed is that I have a delayed ovulation.

  • Al

    While you have discussed men’s increase in testosterone level during a woman’s ovulation, are there any studies which indicate that women can detect when a man’s testosterone level increases?

  • Carrie in Boston

    What about hormones and same-sex attraction?

    Are there any studies of lesbians sniffing female scents? And what about male scent? Has anyone studied women and gay men sniffing male scent?

    • Ellen Dibble

      Women tend to pick mates based on complementary sets of biochemical immunities; that’s what’s been presented about a decade ago.

    • http://twitter.com/JoanieGentian Joanie MacPhee

      I remember an aromatherapy class with Mindy Green many years ago. She mentioned a study that included lesbians wearing “sweaty man” patches under their noses to delay menopause. That’s all I remember from that class, but would like to hear more about women’s reactions to male pheromone along these lines.

  • Doug

    Do homosexual men respond to female hormonal signals in the same way?
    Do mothers send out slightly different hormonal signals? More powerful, for example, since they’ve already reproduced successfully?

  • Yar

    Is there is a higher divorce rate among women who use the pill?

    Animal studies show that female mammals can smell out males whose MHC genes are different from their own. MHC genes affect important immune responses. By mating with males who have different MHC genes, females give their offspring a better disease-fighting repertoire.
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/08/13/health/webmd/main4347457.shtml

    • lauren summerville

      this is actually something i am hoping to do my doctoral dissertation on in the future. females prefer MHC discordant. the pill conflicts with the females’ ability to smell out mates that differ enough to provide the highest potential of offspring.
      there should be a correlation between pill use and divorce rate. divorce rate spiked in the 60s, right alongside the mass production of the pill. this can be explained two fold:
      females can currently use the pill, find their mate, go off of the pill for reproductive purposes, smell out their husband and subsequently divorce them due to conflicting MHC.
      females can find their mates pill free, marry their mate, go on the pill for various reasons, smell their husbands MHC and subsequently divorce them.
      this leads to public health implications, their offspring of their mating can lead to children with more susceptibility to disease.
      and can be grounds for pharmaceutical companies to place these warnings on the label as well as providing other options for non-hormonal birth control to prevent this MHC confusion. if we are advanced enough, we can even dive into the specific chemical components of the pill and determine which conflict with the females’ ability of smelling MHC discordant.

      whew

      • NK

        Lauren, correlation does not equal causality. While it’s possible that some of the hormonal and scent-detecting effects of hormonal birth control do have some relationship with divorces, there were plenty of social and political events around the time the pill was introduced that were likely at least as important.

        • lauren summerville

          ah yes thank you. in all my years of schooling, no one EVER mention correlation does not prove causation. thank you. thank you. i am eternally grateful………….

          thanks for that revealing comment.

          • Jack

            Careful, your (chauvinist) agenda is showing. A snarky attitude won’t help your dissertation.

  • AJ

    Have they looked at how scented soaps, cologne, etc. Affect people. Don’t they contain synthetic phermones?

    • Pancake Rankin

      Look in the back of many popular magazines and you find phremones for sale for both men and women making the claim of enhanced sexual attraction. Are these researchers “In the business”?

    • David in Massachusetts

      In my experience, as a straight man, I find that perfume only works when the woman already smells sexy. If I’m not already attracted to a woman’s scent, perfume won’t do anything to make me more so. Many years ago, I was in a passionless relationship. At that time, I would often find myself attracted to other women’s (in these cases obviously perfumed) scent. I would usually ask them what they were wearing. About half the time it was Halston. So I bought my girlfriend some Halston. It didn’t do anything for her, or rather, for my attraction to her.

  • Pancake Rankin

    The social vector here is presented as one way. Men have more smells than women, and women usually possess a keener sense of smell than men. One would then assume the smell of men to women might be as important or more important than the smell of women to men. The smell of women to women (synchronized menses) and the smell of women to themselves could also be more important than the smell of women to men. Is anyone investigating how men communicate with men olfactorily? Ask any former East German intelligence operative and they will tell you that each human being has their own distinctive personal odor.

    I think this piece is too focused on the conclusion that women are the victim of their own socially inferior biology, and that men have been rhetorically excluded from this vulnerability concept. Your entire assumption is dependent on a culturally imposed dynamic of sexual pursuit. In a world where people are obsessed with wearing fragrances maybe this investigation is moot. You degrade people by reducing our motivations to instinct (end stink).

    • Yar

      Women smell 100 times better than men. At least I think women smell better then men. Women have more control in choice of relationships. I like the clean smell, if I think perfume it loses its power but I am strongly attracted to smell I associate with clean.

    • Ellen Dibble

      Couldn’t it be that in the interests of reproduction, of maintaining a sustainable species, we are attracted to healthy “specimens,” and hormonal health is part of what we pick up with our senses? How is that demeaning to women, if that’s your point? (Though I do think women have to be healthy enough to sustain 9 months of pregnancy and childbirth, which would require more sustained well-being than fatherhood requires.) “Clean” would be another way of saying “healthy,” in that a healthy body is dealing with toxins and other such uncleanness effectively. I expect flowers in bloom are signaling this with their scents just as we are.
      By the way, are you talking about female East German intelligence operatives, or males with olfactory sensory apparatus that is female in its sensitivity? Next time I want to definitely identify a suspect by scent, I want a dog beside me at least to confirm my ID.

  • John

    I had a brain tumor when i was 15 and my pituitary gland was removed, because of this I am on hormone relplacement.

    If mans hormone level is low or synthetic does this effect his attraction to women?

    • Pancake Rankin

      Just how short are you?

  • beth

    If it is about reproducing more, wouldn’t it make sense for women to also cheat?

    • Pancake Rankin

      True because female receptivity can more than match the natural (ED is for erections not fertile sperm) sexual performance of several men concurrently. By procreating with the virile and cohabiting (legal ties) with the affluent and influential one can give offspring the best of everything. (Damn you Maury Povich!)

    • Poldy

      Actually no. Since human infants require a great deal of nurturing and care over an extended period of time, it makes more evolutionary sense for a female to bond with a mate who can provide for her and her child’s needs. This need to secure a bond with a mate also explains sexual receptivity when the female is not ovulating, which is almost unique to humans.

      • Dstnwnd

        We don’t know all there is to know about mating patterns. Yes, it does make sense for parental units to bond for life for many reasons. There is also a behavioral imperative to cross breed, I think. Bird species are renouned by humans who study and anthropomorphize them for their “life-long commitment” as mating pairs. Yet studies show that males and females of the same species who form pair bonds will often mate with others when away from the nest. I had three cockatiels, 2 male and 1 female. When the mama wasn’t sitting on the nest, her mate (a bird I formed an interspecies friendship with [talk about anthropomorphizing]) would sit on the eggs or share his warmth and feed the chicks. She would go exploring with the other male and have discreet sexual encounters with the male. That never changed the behavior of my male cockatiel “friend.” He would fight with the other male when it wasn’t his turn to sit on the eggs. But I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the offspring my little friend actually hatched and helped to raise.

        • Poldy

          Humans are a different order of animals. Infant birds fledge within months. It just makes evolutionary sense for a woman, given the demands and duration of childrearing, to favor securing a man who will stick around to support her and her child. One of the methods of doing that is to be sexually receptive at non-ovulatory times. This inclination is not hardwired, however, and doesn’t preclude cuckolding her mate.

          • Dstnwnd

            OK Poldy, I’ll give you that one, but if she’s discreet and their offspring doesn’t look too different (e.g being of another race), how would the successful bank executive who has funded the Harvard education of a son or daughter ever know for sure it was his offspring? Any more than my cockatiel “friend” ever behaved, even though I’m sure that some of the chicks he nurtured were actually his offspring?

          • Poldy

            I guess DNA testing if the bank executive had any doubts.

  • C G

    I have an unusual acute sense of smell due to Temporal Lobe differences. I am female. I can “smell” my husband and my attraction to him is chemical. This trait has kept my marriage together for 26 years though it has not always been happy.

  • Nancy

    39 years ago I was put on a fertility drug that would cause me to release multiple ovum. I can’t remember what drug or exactly why, just some sort of menstrual difficulties. I met my husband a couple of weeks after starting the drug. The attractions was immediate and strong. We’re still married. Is it just hormones?

  • Doug

    It’s been known for years that women in dormitories, for example, do pick up hormonal cues from each other and tend to have synchronized menstrual cycles over time.

  • Oso

    The researchers talked about how fertility signals are more muted in humans than in other species, I’d like to know the evolutionary explanation for that. Did sexuality need to become more muted in order to facilitate the emergence of other traits – like complex language? Also, this is another striking example of how science sheds light on a subject that religion only obscures.

    • Anonymous

      Without religion we wouldn’t have valuable information about when women are unclean and their inherent inferiority and/or evilness.

      • Oso

        Too true. And we wouldn’t know what to do about the gays.

        • new civility

          As well

      • new civility

        And when to stone or behead them.

    • lauren summerville

      well, it is said concealed ovulation aka “muted fertility signals” removes the powerlessness of females. instead of our females hind quarters turning red, there is concealed ovulation. now males must stay around and court the females in order to be allowed to mate. that is just a small sliver into the larger answer…..

  • Oso

    Another question: is there any research looking at how awareness of fertility research affects attractiveness? I’d like to see what happens when women and men are fully aware of these kinds of studies and if they display the same tendencies.

  • Dstnwnd

    I wonder if the research of Dr Maner and Dr Haselton in any way validates the hypotheses of Dr Desmond Morris, whose work were so popular during my youth in the 1960s among the young people of that time. His premise was that we ARE another breed of ape, that if you were to mount a specimen of all other species of apes along with a human specimen, the observer would see that the human is just another species of ape, it’s most distinguishing characteristic being the lack of fur. He went on to correlate human behaviors with shared traits among other primate species. His works were called “The Naked Ape,” “The Human Zoo,” and “Human Behavior.” Maybe Dr Morris could justifiably be criticized on an academic and scientific level as being a populist, but he might be on to something in my opinion. The theses of Dr Maner and Dr Haselton may validate Dr Morris’s basic premises on a glandular, hormonal level. I would be interested in any response to this.

    Lots of great food for thought from this discussion. As always, Tom, you are the best.
    Jim

  • Pint27781

    Explains why older women are ignored in many environments. NoMenses/ovulation to get men/and or women to pay attention to them

    • Ellen Dibble

      A great benefit, if you ask me.

    • Razba

      I thought this as well. I have female friends who lament the day when they are no longer viewed with desire.

  • Joden_yellson

    I am curious about how gay men respond to the scent of a woman.

    • Ecy7

      I don’t have a link, but I remember reading that there was a “dirty t-shirt” study. They found that gay men were attracted to the scent of other gay men, more so than to women and straight men. Women were also more attracted to the scent of straight men than gay men.

  • lauren summerville

    i’ve applied to work with both of these professors in their lab for Fall of 2011. and hearing them on this program almost brought me to tears, because they can’t provide me a position…….

  • Summervilletracie

    I was fascinated to listen to both of these people. It is sad to know that my daughter tried to get into their labs for grad school but turned down. she so wants to study this field and has some unique ideas. I am a science teacher, and as a nation feel we need to foster as many students as we can in science. Why can’t we encourage, rather than discourage? Especially women in the STEM subjects?

  • Katherine

    Science, and the funding of it, hardly takes place in a void. I can’t help but wonder what forces have converged to make evolutionary psychology so in vogue at this moment in history.

  • Anonymous

    They studied the smell of armpit, behavior of women around etc…but there was no comment or study regarding basic, basic smell..what all animals smell!! Yes, smell of private…All animals do that…..Want to hear from somebody about this..Thanks

    • Dstnwnd

      You’re right, anonymous! Our cultural development seems to have perhaps contributed to a decline in the olfactory sense, at least on a cognitive experiencial level. There has to be a reason why your dog always has to smell a crotch; and I’d be willing to bet that this behavior would be considered rude and offensive in the vast majority of human cultures. Imagine how much information we could gain if we did that! But it’s not just reproductive information we could gather if we all went back to sniffing crotches; if we learned to interpret what this sensory pathway reveals, and to integrate this into the overall impression we get from all of the other sensory pathways we utilize, imagine what we could learn about others in our lives.
      Jim

      • Anonymous

        Thanks…I am happy at least there is one human being out there who can think rationally an with the simple common sense..Basic instinct..people have hard time accepting and understanding…Olfactory sense is the least utilized of all senses..I want to know from exports on this program about this fact..

        Anonymous

    • joefish

      in my view, there is much to be learned and/or better understood by looking at peoples’ behavior from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. “Anonymous” has been so discreet in phrasing his/her point, that I am unsure what is meant by “basic smell” feces? maybe? in his books, Prof. Steven Pinker. one of my favorite authors, occasionally refers to a study done by some Anthropologist , surveying cultural characteristics found in all cultures. two of those charactorics that are relevant to the present conversation are desire for privacy ( 1) when defecating and (2) when eating during times of food shortage. These may be related to each other and to the privacy sought concerning the scent of one’s own crotch. that scent and the odor of one’s feces may give away the fact that one has access to some desirable type of food, for which your crotch-smelling neighbor might then become a competitor .

      • Anonymous

        What I meant was smell of sex organ…not feces!! In the animal kingdom that is The one and the only driving instict for this.

        • Dstnwnd

          joefish may be onto something here. It’s certainly an interesting concept, one I’ve never considered before. Still, I believe that even if my dog is trying to get an idea of what I’ve been eating when he sniffs, it’s only part of the overall message, just like my visual pathway will give me multiple messages about hygiene, sexual availability and desirability, affluence, self-confidence, etc.

      • Longfeather

        Hunters can tell what and when an animal has eaten by examining the fewmets. Animals get information on the health, diet, and stress experienced by another animal, plus and understanding of where they have been by picking up scent of their regular intestinal probiotics.

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  • Kaiel9z

    Of course this is true given the natural scheme of things. However, in a culture of deadly STD’s and the need to wear condoms, to use birth control pills etc.,; such interferences disturb and take away from the natural flow of nature. Whereas a man and a woman coming together intimately would result in him leaving his scent (marking) in/on her; is not the case when a condom is worn. Nor is her scent left on him. The taking of pills and the use of creams, jellies etc., all serve to mask the natural scents/musk of both the man and woman, thus interferring with the natural act of love-making. Oh, to be natural in the flesh again would be wonderful and yet it is what it is!

  • Mary

    I am not planning on getting pregnant in the next five or so years and I really don’t want to go on the pill. I am considering a hormone free IUD. Has there been any research done on the science of attraction and IUD’s? Will it have an effect on my finding the perfect man :) ?

    • Jamieking1986

      IUDs should really only be considered if you’ve had a child or carried one into the 3rd trimester. out of the women i know who have them 2 were never pregnant and one had it removed because it was still causing her pain after 2 months and one ended up pregnant. the othe 5 women myself included have had no complications an no pregnancies

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  • http://profile.yahoo.com/J6NWQN7HKR3Z25IGETQ3ZD7GKA Traveler

    I have a term I believe I invented:  MENOSTOP

  • Pingback: The Biology of Attraction

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