Category: news

Women’s scent has mind control properties

Posted in news by jenapincott on January 10, 2009

bxp68578I was shocked by the overwhelming response (nearly 60,000 views!) to my post, “Semen has mind control properties.” Many readers said they think it’s a fascinating idea — that there are proteins and/or hormones in semen that subtly affect a woman’s sexual behavior. But what “secret weapons” do women have to “control” men?

I have a few responses, which are detailed in my book.

1. Women are (generally) the choosier sex. From an evolutionary standpoint, we’re pickier about our sexual partners because we have more at stake in the event of a pregnancy. Everywhere around the world, even in the most egalitarian countries, women desire fewer lovers than men do. Although women make trade-offs depending on their circumstances, we’re more about quality (even for flings). This by default gives women a sort of upper hand.

Now the sexier stuff:

2. Chemicals released during sex affect men, too. When he orgasms, his body releases vasopressin, a neurohormone associated with bonding (and drowsiness — it’s one reason why men fall into contented postcoital slumbers). This means that sexual intimacy may make a guy more attached to his lover. How likely is this? Intriguingly, a lot may have to do with his particular vasopressin receptor genes.

3. A woman’s scent may have mind control properties. Guys tend to prefer a woman’s body odor around the time she’s most likely to conceive (as described in BLONDES). On a subconscious level, men have been found to behave differently around this time of a woman’s cycle. According to studies such as this one at UCLA, women report that their partners are more jealous, loving, possessive, and attentive when women have high levels of luteinzing hormone in their system, a sign of imminent ovulation. In the famous stripper study, johns were also much more generous — paying up to twice as much — when the strippers were fertile. Scientists speculate that men are unwittingly responding to estrogen-related properties in women’s sweat and other bodily fluids. Men, meanwhile, are oblivious to why they’re acting so servile.

Bottom line is that there are no doubt many hormonal signals that give either men or women the reproductive upper hand. We’re all either sperm-zombied or pussy-whipped — that’s what some readers have quipped. But a sweeter way of looking at it is that these neurohormones also help give rise to love and long-term attachment. Not to say that chemistry could or should ever define love, but it does help explain some bonds.

Semen has mind control properties

Posted in news by jenapincott on January 8, 2009

hypnotism-0250-pg1The more a woman has sex with her partner, the more committed she becomes, and the less attracted she is to other men — at least in the short-term. I blogged about this study several weeks ago and offered explanations both hormonal and psychological. But another theory came to my attention today in the form of a study on fruit flies.

For decades, scientists have known that female Drosophila refuse sex for a period of time after contact with seminal fluid. This may give a reproductive edge to the first male with whom a female has sex. A study led by Geoffrey Findlay at the University of Washington has finally shed some light on the phenomenon. It turns out there are proteins in seminal fluid, many of which transfer to the female after sex. Some of these proteins are warrior-like — they fight the sperm of rival males. Other proteins are like hypnotists — entering the female’s circulatory system, they may hormonally dampen her interest in sex with other males. Somewhat disturbingly, the more semen a female is exposed to, the more influence the male has over her reproductive tract and her mating behavior. Semen, it seems, has mind control properties.

So what does this mean for humans? The same study hasn’t been done on men and women, but researchers speculate that many of the same proteins are in the semen of human males. “Does semen make you happier?” is one of the questions posed in BLONDES. In answering it I describe a fascinating study at SUNY Albany that found that, yes, women who are regularly exposed to their partner’s semen are less depressed than women who use condoms most of the time. Hormones and proteins are absorbed through the vagina, enter the bloodstream, and possibly breach the blood-brain barrier. Might these factors in men’s semen manipulate women’s minds (and bodies) in the way that fruit fly spunk affects female fruit flies? Perhaps, but it’s hard to prove. Women’s love lives (and psyches) are a little more complicated than those of Drosophila. After all, a woman in love with the man with whom she has unprotected sex would be happier and more faithful anyway. It’s a puzzle for all scientists who study human sexuality: Where to draw the line between chemical love and Eros? The seminal and the sacred?

n.b. Here is a list of the potential mind-altering “ingredients” in sperm.

Dog owners more likely to get dates

Posted in news by jenapincott on January 5, 2009

paris_hilton3Psychologist Nicolas Guguen, who conducted experiments on how makeup and thoughts of love affect men’s behavior, has recently turned his attention from men to dogs. More specifically, he and his colleagues published a study on how dogs facilitate social interactions among humans. Is it true, for instance, that women are more likely to get hit on when walking their puppy? Are men more likely to get a woman’s number when walking a dog than when strolling solo?

As you might expect, the answer is yes — evidenced by the number of well-groomed dog owners so obviously on the prowl. And now we have further proof because all of Guguen’s experiments prove that dogs endear their owners to strangers. 1.) Men and women, when soliciting passers-by for spare change, were given more money when accompanied by a dog. 2.) After dropping coins on the ground, dog owners were more likely to get help picking them. 3.) And yes — when hitting on women in the street, men scored more phone numbers when walking a dog than when walking alone.

Interestingly, the type of dog might also have an effect, according to an earlier study. Researchers sent a woman out on the street with three different types of dogs (Labrador Retriever puppy, Labrador adult, or Rottweiler adult). When the woman was alone on the street, most people ignored her. When walking the Rottweiler, the woman got somewhat more attention. When walking the Labs, either the puppy or the adult, the woman attracted much more attention in the form of smiles and verbal responses — suggesting the dog’s looks, personality, and approachability count as much if not more than the owner’s.

Social cues — signs of character and approachability — are among the topics explored in BLONDES. Clearly, dog ownership is one of those cues — suggesting receptivity and even kindness. If this is true, perhaps the best dating advice is to get thee to a shelter — and be sure to vet the dog’s personality and attractiveness as thoughtfully as you would any other life companion.

Men prefer painted ladies?

Posted in news by jenapincott on January 1, 2009

makeup2
Of course men should love women for who they are, au naturel. But there’s a reason why ancient tallow and kohl residues pop up on archaeological digs — makeup draws the attention of men. This is something of a given, but French psychologist Nicolas Gueguen (who also researched men’s unconscious behavior after thinking about love) has found empirical evidence that men — at least on an unconscious level — are more attracted to painted ladies.

Gueguen recruited two women in their early twenties to go to bars for sixty sessions on twenty nights, and sit at a free table near where they were highly visible. The women either wore makeup or not — and when they did, they applied to it to their eyes, cheeks, and lips. Observing the women were members of Gueguen’s research team, who counted the number of men that approached the girls and the minutes lapsed before and between approaches.

The results? Although men approached the women in every session, the come-ons were more frequent when women wore makeup. It took less time for men to make a pass at the women (an average of 17 min vs. 23 min), and more men approached the women per hour (a mean of 2.0 vs 1.5).

What draws guys to lipsticked mouths and darkened eyes? There may be several reasons. As I discuss in BLONDES, makeup simulates high-estrogen qualities that peak at the time of a woman’s cycle when she’s most likely to conceive. Eyes appear wider, lips plumper, features appear more symmetrical. Moreover, made-up women with high-contrast features catch the eye (just as blond hair does). And just as women who dye their hair blonde may appear to desire attention, so do women with makeup. Men might assume, at least subconsciously, that it’s a attention-seeking cue (“look at me!”) — and as a result be more attracted. And it may be a virtuous feedback loop: the more confident a woman feels in her own skin, albeit under a few layers of macquillage, the more attention she seeks — and the more attention she gets.

You smell fear, whether you realize it or not

Posted in news by jenapincott on December 29, 2008

_44173138_fearmale1Our bodies speak to one another in airborne chemical signals that bypass our conscious brains. In BLONDES I fixate on this truth, detailing studies that have shown exactly how these chemicals, called sex pheromones, can trigger sexual attraction. Some studies show that sex pheromones have a marked effect on behavior — potentially making women more receptive, upbeat, and attracted (in the case of androstadienone-related odors) and men more drawn to the body odors of a woman when she’s most likely to conceive (in the case of estrogen-related odors).

And now a news flash: sex pheromones aren’t the only types of pheromones that may affect human behavior. There are also alarm pheromones – chemical signals, like fear gas, that make a person more alert, more on edge. Stony Brook University neurobiologist Lilianne Mujica-Parodi and her colleagues taped absorbent pads into the armpits of 144 first-time skydivers, collecting their fear sweat before and during a 13,000-foot free-fall jump. Then the research team enlisted another set of volunteers to smell either a.) the skydivers’ sweaty pads (fear sweat); or b.) pads worn by sweaty subjects who had simply been working out (exercise sweat), while having their brains scanned by fMRI. Although participants rated fear sweat and exercise sweat as having a similar intensity, their brains responded to the two sets of sweats in dramatically different ways. It turned out that fear sweat — and only fear sweat — triggered activity in the left amygdala, the region of the brain associated with fear. When shown pictures of faces with expressions that ranged from happy to furious, and asked to identify the emotion, people exposed to fear sweat were more accurate when distinguishing between angry and neutral expressions. A chemical component of the sweat, it appears, put them on their guard. The researchers call it “second-hand stress.”

None of this is surprising to biologists because other animals, even mammals, use alarm pheromones all the time. After inhaling alarm pheromones, rats and deer sniff and pace around, unable to let down their guard.

I’m intrigued by this. Alarm pheromones are a hidden biological component of our survival as social anim
als. Anywhere people are stressed or scared — exam rooms, hospitals, interrogation chambers, battlefields, trading floors, sports matches — there’s a residue in the air. Call it an ambient emotion. Call it emotional infection. Call it evolutionary hardwiring that primes us to act when there’s danger. Are some of us more sensitive to it than others? Probably. And its effect on behavior is no doubt context-dependent. I’d like to see more studies, a bigger n, and more distinction between genders.

Like many writer types, I’m hyper-sensitive to the emotions of others, sometimes to the detriment of my psychological well-being. If you’re scared, I worry. My guard goes up, too. Block my my olfactory system, the odor processing region where alarm pheromones may be processed — and would I be less sensitive to your stress?

Santa makes people jump in the sack

Posted in news by jenapincott on December 23, 2008

santababy_000There’s upside in a down economy — if you’re in the condom business. According to an interview with the condom manufacturer Trojan , their sales peak is the week between Christmas and New Years. Come Santa season, everyone seems to jump in the sack. (Here’s further proof of the “Santa effect.”)

What is it about Christmas that revs up the sex drive? The increase in sexual activity at at the end of December harks back to Saturnalia, a pagan holiday when people feasted on boar flesh and indulged in a lot of prehibernatory sex. Disapproving early Christians coopted the sexfest and turned it into the celebration of Jesus’s birth. “Why either/or?” ask modern day revelers, and now many both celebrate the baby Jesus and also enjoy conceiving (or preventing the conception of) their own babies. It’s unsurprising that people have more sex during the weeklong holiday: we have time to relax, drink, and socialize more. And not everyone wears Trojans — the birthrate in the United States peaks in the summer and in September, nine months after the winter bacchanalia.

Even more interesting, there may be a biological reason why people’s sex lives heat up as the seasons cool down. In BLONDES I describe the connection between hormone levels and waning daylight hours in autumn. And we’re not alone: other animals in the northern hemisphere also have their rutting season in the late fall — including reindeer.

Remind a man of love and his behavior changes in minutes

Posted in news by jenapincott on December 20, 2008

gallantprincessLeave it to the French to figure out how to make men gallant. In BLONDES I describe a touching French experiment in which a strapping young man, code-named Antoine, successfully picks up women on the street and at dance clubs. That study was led by French psychologist Nicolas Gurguen, and now Dr Gurguen and his colleagues have made another fun discovery.

In the current study, 253 male and female participants were approached on the street by researchers recruited by Gurguen. Approximately half were asked to think about a piece of music they love. The others were asked to remember “love episodes” — the most romantic moments in their lives: their first kiss, the blissful initial months of a love affair, the cherished times in their current relationships, etc. In psychological parlance, these latter participants were “primed” to think of love.

After being released, the participants continued walking, and were later stopped, seemingly randomly, by a female stranger asking for money to buy a bus ticket. The stranger, of course, was complicit in the study.

The results? Men who had been primed to think of love were three times more likely to help out a “damsel in distress” than men who were primed to think about their favorite music. Only 13 percent of the music-primed men gave money compared to 38 percent of the love-primed guys.

Interestingly, love priming didn’t have any effect on women’s generosity, which leads the researchers to speculate that cultural and evolutionary impulses trigger generosity in men alone. Why? For one, women value wealth and chivalry in men more than men do in women, so men in love may be unconsciously more generous than women in love — and with any woman, not just their beloved. (There’s also a neurological basis here. As detailed in BLONDES, lust and love activate and deactivate various regions of the brain.) Of course, it would be more interesting to see the study conducted with a variety of stangers in need — old ladies, young men, people of different races, and so on.

In any case, one lesson from the French study is that it behooves charities and advertisers to induce feelings of love in men. Open men’s hearts and their wallets follow suit — at least for a few minutes. Of course, Frenchwomen have known this all along.

When women prefer high-pitched guys

Posted in news by jenapincott on December 18, 2008

square-cutouts-mom-dad-with-baby3BLONDES is all about the unconscious biological biases behind our mate choices — and voice is one of those qualities that women care about more than we let on. No shock: women prefer men with deep, rich, low decibel male voices, especially for short-term relationships. It’s a cue of high-testosterone, which evolutionary biologists associate with health and good genes. (Men have their preferences, too.)

Once pregnant, however, women’s deep-voice bias may subconsciously shift. According to a study led by anthropologist Coren Apicella, nursing women give higher ratings to men whose voices are high-pitched than do women who are not nursing. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense. A baritone high-testosterone type might sire healthy children, but will he stick around?

Focused on childcare, a new mother might prefer high-pitched men; odds are they’re more supportive and nurturing — and perhaps more likely to help raise children who aren’t theirs.

What a wiggle reveals

Posted in news by jenapincott on December 12, 2008

1508213496_4fdbc3bf8aI couldn’t help but to post the latest news on the science of the “wiggle walk” — a study that shows that trained experts can tell if a woman has vaginal orgasms based on her gait.

As discussed in-depth in BLONDES, much has been made of the way women walk. For instance, the wigglier the walk, the curvier the woman, and — surprisingly — the more likely she is not to be ovulating.

And now there’s more.

In the current study, sixteen Belgian woman provided a history of their sexual behavior, including the ability to have vaginal orgasms from intercourse alone , and then were videotaped walking in a public place. Two sexologists and two sexologists-in-training, all of whom were unaware of the women’s sexual histories, were asked to guess which women could achieve vaginal orgasm. Judging from the way the women swiveled and sashayed, the experts were accurate about 80 percent of the time.

What is it about the saunter of a vaginally orgasmic woman that gives her away? The answer, according to the researchers, Aurelie Nicholas and Stuart Brody, involves differences in stride length and vertebral rotation. Easily-orgasmic women have a gait that “comprises fluidity, energy, sensuality, freedom.” Whether it’s due to unimpaired, unlocked pelvic muscles that release the flow of energy — or simple sexual self-confidence — remains to be seen.

Personally, I think it’s all interesting, but I’d like to see a bigger n here: 16 women and 4 sexologists is a tiny study. Plus, if there’s something to it, would the gaits be distinctive to the “untrained” eye? Reminds me of what I was told when I was thirteen years old. I spent a summer picking tobacco with a crew of farm workers who insisted they could tell whether a woman is a virgin based on her walk. Those guys also taught me how to spit.

Are sexually motivated men responsible for the recession?

Posted in news by jenapincott on December 9, 2008

babeinpileofmoneyenhancedOne theme I discuss in BLONDES is that male economic resources are related to reproductive success. Consumption — of cars, clothes, vacation houses, horses, holidays, bling — is how guys show off their economic power, and in past years consumption in the U.S. has skyrocketed. So, incidentally, has the infidelity rate among both men and women.
According to a new study by Daniel Kruger a the University of Michigan, men with strong “mating intentions” do indeed spend more and save less than their less sexually motivated peers. Kruger and his colleagues conducted a random telephone survey, asking men to report their expenditures and sexual histories. Indeed, regardless of age, marital status, and education, guys who spent more than they saved — and who spent more than they earned (thanks to cheap and easy credit) — reported having more sexual partners and a desire for higher numbers of sexual partners than their more monogamous peers. The 25 percent of men who were fiscally conservative had an average of three sexual partners in the past five years, and only desired one partner in the next five years. The guys with the highest levels of conspicuous consumption doubled those figures.
The dirty little secret is that our economy runs on the male impulse, honed by thousands of years of evolution, to spend as a way to show status, which is in turn related to reproductive success. Imagine — what would happen to global markets if women were deliberately disinterested in the goods men have to offer?

Here’s a theory: did cheap and easy credit make it easier for men to attract more women than they would otherwise? Did low interest rates, easy mortgages, and generous credit lines inadvertently increase the divorce rate — or aid and abet infidelity? If so, could a recession actually mean more monogamy?

Comments welcome.

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