Body Odours and Body Odour Preferences in Humans

Claus Wedekind

in Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780198568308
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Body Odours and Body Odour Preferences in Humans

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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Body odours seem to reveal different kinds of information about humans, and they typically behave as if they do not want to give this information away. This article briefly summarises the kind of information that may be revealed in odours. It then concentrates on the link between the MHC (major histocompatibility complex, a group of genes) and odours and odour preferences. It also shows that metabolism inevitably produces volatile chemicals that may be difficult to hide completely. Therefore, it may not be surprising that body odours reveal some information about human metabolism. Odours are, for example, of primary importance in the sexual life of mice and rats, and certainly not without importance for primate sexual behaviour. A large body of work suggests that a group of genes within the MHC (major histocompatibility complex) is important in the link between odours and mate preferences in several vertebrates, including humans.

Keywords: body; odours; humans; metabolism; sexual behavior; genes; preferences; major histocompatibility complex

Article.  3773 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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