Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A follow-up to the Wedekind study: MHC-correlated odour preferences in humans and the use of oral contraceptives

This study contests Wedekind’s experimental design for the hypothesis that women using oral contraceptives preferred MHC-similar men by stating that the pill-using sample size was a) too small b) between-subjects rather than within-subjects. The authors adhered to Wedekind’s initial design, but accounted for the previous “flaws” by increasing the pill-using group to 97 and comparing preferences before and after initiating pill use.
There was no significant effect of MHC dissimilarity on odor pleasantness regardless of pill use, indicating a lack of general preference for MHC dissimilarity. Similarly, females did not display a preference when men were considered as the unit of analysis (MHC-similar or dissimilar). This experiment was essentially unable to replicate the results of Wedekind’s study, but does support the hypothesis that the use of oral contraceptives disrupts adaptive female mate preference by shifting it in favor of MHC-similar males.

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