Wednesday, April 8, 2009

MHC and another sweaty t-shirt

I have always been interested in scent and how it effect the human mind. Growing up with a father who doesn’t wear deodorant because he doesn’t like how it effects his scent and a grandfather who knows each grandchild by the scent of their hair it is easy to understand why. I first read the article Scent and Sensibility when I was on birth control and it really made me open my eyes…and nose. I knew I wanted to further research this as soon as I was assigned this presentation.

The Study

In 1995 Claus Wedekind created a study that changed the way the world viewed scent and attraction. He choose 44 men and 49 women to participate in the study. The men were instructed to wear a t-shirt for two days without using any kind of scent products. Then Wedekind place the t-shirts in plastic lined boxes with holes in them so the women would be able to smell them properly. The women in the study were scheduled to smell when they were at the middle of their menstrual cycle which is when the nose works the best. Each woman was given seven boxes: three with scents similar to hers, three different, and one control.

The Deciding Factor

The main chemical element in this study and other studies involving scent is a gene called MHC, which stands for Major Histocompatibility Complex. MHC are molecules that control the body’s immune systems response to noticing “self” and “non self”. In Wedekind’s stud
y MHC was what was involved with how the woman chose which partner to pick. Women choose the t-shirt that had MHC most different from their own.

Here’s the catch

The birth control pill has changed women’s abilities to have sex and protect themselves. It is a great step for women kind. But is it doing females good in the long run? In Wedekind’s study he notes that women on the pill were attracted to the t-shirts with scents most similar to their own. He noted that this was due to the pill making the body seem to think that it is already pregnant. In a similar study using t-shirts and MHC, 18 women that were on the pill were tested. Curiously in researching this study it is noted that the women in this study did nothing to enhance their scent abilities. The women in Wedekind’s study used nasal spray to clear their nose and read a book on how to enhance their scent. In the study with women just on the pill it was concluded that they were indeed attracted to men with MHC similar to theirs and this goes against human nature.

One thing to note is that women that have fallen in love online and are on the pill may not be impacted as harshly by its effects on their MHC because their mind will be confused by their emotions.


So maybe your on the pill and planning to get married soon? Should you stay on the pill? As studies show it would be best not to and to wait un
til your body is back to normal before you crawl into bed with a man whose scent just isn’t up to par.


F. , Douglas. "Histocompatibility." Medical Microbiology 1997-2009 8 Apr 2009.

s., Craig Roberts. " MHC-correlated odor preferences in humans and the use of oral contraceptives." Proceedings of the Royal Society . 08/25/2008. 1 Apr 2009

"Sweaty T-Shirt Study ." Human Thermodynamics 5/28/2008 1 Apr 2009.

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