Science of Love

You're More Attracted To People With Different Immunity Genes

A study published in May 2016 by Maria da Graça Bicalho shows that certain people might smell better to you because a certain group of genes is mismatched with yours. The major histocompatibility complex, or MHC, is a group of genes that plays an important role in both immunity and reproduction. Previous research has also shown that humans can detect the MHC in the scents of others, though scientists don't quite know why. To test their hypothesis that people prefer partners with an MHC that's different than their own, Professor Bicalho and her team studied the MHC data of 90 married couples and compared it to that of 152 randomly generated couples. If the MHC had no effect on our choice of mate, the team would have seen similar MHC pairings on both sets of couples. Instead, they found that the real married couples had more MHC dissimilarities than the randomly generated ones. The researchers think this is because parents with differing MHC genes produce healthier children, so we're attracted to those who will produce the best offspring. There's also some evidence that parents with matching genes are at higher risk of early-stage miscarriage, among other issues. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Animals use major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins to find a mate and research is showing that humans might as well. 00:30

  2. A 1995 study showed that women prefer people with a particular MHC scent. 01:03

  3. The scents with a person's own MHCs mixed in trigger a response in one area of the brain and different MHCs trigger another. 01:29

Written by Curiosity Staff July 26, 2016

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