Effects of pheromones on menstrual synchrony and a gay man
February 21, 2012 | James Kohl
A correspondent asked: Can anyone tell me of research looking at what effect pheromones might have on a man (in this case, a gay man), living with and among women over a long period of time? This question was asked of me by a male student, I’m guessing in just such a situation, after we had been discussing the effects on women, such as the dormitory effect of synched menstrual cycles
I’m not aware of any studies, and would be surprised to learn of any, since most people remain unconvinced that human pheromones have the same epigenetic effects as food odors on the gene, cell, tissue, organ, organ system pathway that links both food odors and pheromones to the development of brain-directed behavior across species. In any case, the results of the effects of pheromones acting via their direct effect on gonadotropin releasing hormone secretion from the medial preoptic area of the anterior hypothalamus (e.g., in mammals) could only be partially predicted by his genotype and nutrient and pheromone exposure-enhanced phenotypic expression across his lifetime of experience.
Clearly, food odor and pheromone-induced changes in the neuroanatomy of his brain are predicted by the honeybee model (e.g., for studying human immunity, disease resistance, allergic reaction, circadian rhythms, antibiotic resistance, the development of the brain and behavior, mental health, longevity, and diseases of the X chromosome), and a recent study showed that the mixing of genotypes had what they refer to as indirect genetic effects on social behavior (i.e., “behaviors of single workers can change in response to the genotype of social partners”).
Whether or not these epigenetically-induced changes in his brain alter phenotypic expression of his behavior is a much more controversial topic than if we were discussing insects, although the molecular mechanisms are the same. We might first need to get past the statistical analyses of menstrual synchrony studies, and look at cause and effect on hormones, and their affect on behavior before addressing the likelihood that his social circumstances are influencing much more that just the molecular biology of his brain.
Of course his pheromones are also influencing neuroanatomy in his roommates. Assuming, however, that there is good “chemistry” among them, there is little likelihood of “colony collapse,” which suggests no reason not to continue the living arrangements, and no reason to worry about the affects of the pheromones on the behavior of any concerned parties. After all, few people have even considered whether human pheromone-driven menstrual synchrony affects the behavior of women or men, despite that animal models that say it must.
But see for example: Ovulation as a Male Mating Prime: Subtle Signs of Women’s Fertility Influence Men’s Mating Cognition and Behavior and Scent of a Woman: Men’s Testosterone Responses to Olfactory Ovulation Cues by forward-thinking researchers who understand the significance of the accurate conceptualization of human pheromones to advances in psychological science.