Re: Human phermones

Ralph L Holloway (rlh2@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Sat, 13 Jul 1996 12:07:38 -0400

On Sat, 13 Jul 1996, Vance Geiger wrote:

> I recently ran into an article in Psychology Today on human
> phermones. The author is F. Bryant Furlow in the March/April
> 1996 issue.
> Some of the findings stated in this article (no references as
> this is Psychology Today):
> Human females can detect MHC (major histocompatibility complex)
> dissimilar males through phermone detection. This is according
> to research conducted by Wedekind.
> The idea expressed in the article is that humans have phermone
> receptors. Women can detect through these phermones males who
> have immune responses similar to themselves and avoid them
> selecting males who have immune responses different from
> themselves to pass more varied co-dominate MHC genes to offspring
> thus giving their offspring a better immune system response.
> some quotes (again no references)
> "Doctors have known since the mid-1980s that couples suffering
> repeated spontaneous abortions tend to share more of their MHC
> than couples for whom pregnancies are carried to term. And even
> when MHC-similar couples do successfully bring a pregnancy to
> term, their babies are often underweight." (Forlow, 1996:45)
> "The Swiss team (Wedekind) believes that MHC-related pregnancy
> problems in humans are too widespread to be due to inbreeding
> alone. They argue that in-couple infertility problems are due to
> strategic, unconcious "decisions" made by women's bodies to
> curtail investment in offspring with inferioer immune systems -
> offspring unlikely to have survived to adulthood in the
> environments of our evolutionary past." (Furlow, 1996:45)
> Question: Is anyone familiar with this research, the findings of
> Wedekind or the "Doctors" who have known this since the 1980s?
> vance geiger

Yes, it is pretty common knowledge among us physical types. There is a
book on it by Kohl et al (forget second author's name) 1995 called "The
Scent of Eros", well worth a read for anyone interested. As to how
reliable these studies are, that is another question. Certainly, much more
is needed in terms of replication, particularly on the one recently done
with t-shirts and MHC. Problem with pheromomic research is that they are
basically undetected consciously and yet they certainly exist. Remember
allthose older studies of women coming into synchronised cycling of their
menses? Very difficult to explain without pheromones concept. Still a lot
of resistance to the idea that what works for other animals could possibly
be relevant to humans.
R. Holloway