Have you experienced the instant attraction with someone you just met? Or talked to someone for weeks online, then turn out not to be interested once you meet? They were the whole package! Interesting, funny, intelligent, and good-looking, but something was just missing…. that spark… that desire… that chemistry. It turns out, you may be right.
Whiff of Attraction
In the late 1990s, a Swiss biologist, Claus Wedekind, gave 44 men a t-shirt and asked them to wear it for two nights in a row. Wedekind put each t-shirt in a box with a hole and asked 49 women to sniff each box. The women were able to pick out which t-shirt box they preferred. Wedekind discovered the women preferred the t-shirt box of a man, whom had different major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes than her.
MHC genes play a part in the immune system. MHC genes code for proteins located on the surface of cells that help the body distinguish foreign substances like a harmful virus or bacteria. Being attracted to someone with a different MHC has benefits from an evolutionary perspective and offspring survival. For offspring, having a more diverse set of MHC genes will increase a child’s resistance against a harmful virus or bacteria. This in turn, has the evolutionary benefit of improving the odds of one’s genetics being passed on through the generations.
However, if you are a female on oral contraceptives, the guy you met from online that was the whole package, but you had no chemistry with…well you may want to try a second date with him. It turns out that women, who are on oral contraceptives, are attracted to men with similar MHC genes. So, before he goes and puts a ring on it, you may want to take a break from the pill.
Not Your Skunk BO
If you are reading this article at the gym and you are all hot, stinky, and sweaty. You may be thinking that your body odor is radiating off you and your partner is supposed to love that body odor. So, you run home and put your stinky sweaty body odor all over your partner, asking if they like your smell… DON’T DO THIS! Because…
- No one likes your stinky sweaty body odor smell…no one
- This is not the smell we are discussing. We are talking about your natural smell you produce, while just sitting on the couch, walking the dog, or sleeping. Your natural pheromone.
Chemistry of Attraction
Pheromone is an umbrella term used to describe a chemical compound emitted from an organism to the environment. Since human pheromones are composed of many chemical compounds and scientists continue to investigate which of these compounds influence us, we use the term pheromone in a broad sense. However, scientists are getting closer to finding out what makes you keep sniffing your partner’s t-shirt.
A group of Chinese scientists asked men and women of different sexual orientation to rate a point-light display (see example below) as either sex. The participants sniffed two sex pheromones: androstadienone and estratetraenol during the display. Heterosexual males, who sniffed the estratetraenol, viewed the display as more feminine. Heterosexual females and homosexual males, who sniffed androstadienone, viewed the display as more masculine. These scientists not only discovered what role the two sex pheromones may play but also an insight on pheromones and homosexuality.
The science of attraction continuous to be an interesting topic for scientists and the average person. We all want to know how to find the perfect mate that we have a natural chemistry with. It will take some time, but if you keep sniffing around, you are bound to find someone who has different MHC genes than you.