Monday, February 11, 2008

Can you (Literally!) Smell Divorce?

I don’t have time to blog extensively on this too much, nor have I had much time to think about it, but the broad sociological consequences of recent research into human attraction and smell are mind boggling.

Here are some initial reactions/questions that I have.

1) How big a player is the sense of smell in the overall picture of human attraction? Is it a major player, even when subconscious? Is it a minor player, perhaps only making a difference when other means of mate selection are inconclusive?

2) What is the effect of deodorants and fragrances on this function? The obvious answer is that they interfere. How much do they interfere and how often do they influence the end result?

3) How did past cultures with arranged marriages handle this (or present ones for that matter)? Was there much enough interaction between the sexes to allow the physiological process to work? Were there means for the girl to communicate these preferences (through her mother perhaps)?

4) It appears that not only do hormonal contraceptives interfere, but they actually reverse the natural preferences in mate selection from dissimilar MHC profiles to similar MHC profiles. The explanation for this is that BCPs artificially turn off fertility by simulating pregnancy. Scientists speculate that a woman wants family around when she is pregnant. Perhaps it is also the worst of times to be looking for a mate. There are many angles to take this one, given the widespread use of hormonal contraceptives.

4A) Quite often, even when a woman is not sexually active prior to marriage, she begins taking hormonal contraceptives in anticipation of marriage and the desire to postpone children. I wonder if there is a higher incidence of cold feet among this demographic?

4B) It is quite common in American culture for serious decisions regarding mate selection and engagement to take place after the initiation of regular sexual relations. Most often when this happens, the female is on hormonal contraception. This opens the door to vast numbers of women in our society to have their brains interpreting their potential mates smells the exact opposite of how they would if they were not taking the pill. What are the consequences of this? How does it impact the future of the marriage? The article mentions people with similar MHC have more miscarriage and infertility problems. Given the decreased attraction and increased stress due to infertility and miscarriage, it would seem a reasonable conclusion that there would be a higher incidence of divorce among this demographic.

Thoughts anyone?



steviepinhead said...


Kevin said...


Yup, it's a long'un but it was interesting. I'm left with a bunch of questions, too, primarily revolving around the degree of significance of their studies (your #1 especially). I don't think they provided any numbers, which could make a huge difference, so I'm not sure what to make of the article.

Here's a few more questions:

- What is the average variance of MHC in married couples? For different cultures?

- What is the correlation between MHC variance and longer lasting or permanent marriage?

- Does MHC variance correlate with friendship or "getting along" with people?

- Genetics wouldn't be an issue, but is smell and MHC meaningful with respect to homosexual couples?


Anonymous said...

Mammasboy (Mark?),

Do you remember this discussion over at KingdomGrace...

You might be interested in reading Viola's comments about the Didache and "drift". Here's link;

Tom (aka Volkmar1108)