Men's preferences for women's body odours are not associated with HLA

Lobmaier, Janek; Probst, Fabian; Fischbacher, Urs; Wirthmüller, Urs; Knoch, Daria (7 April 2017). Men's preferences for women's body odours are not associated with HLA (Unpublished). In: Annual conference of the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association (EHBEA). Paris, France. 06.04.-08.04. 2017.

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Objective: Body odours allegedly portray information about an individual's genotype at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC, called HLA in humans). While there is strong experimental support for MHC-associated mating behaviour in animals, the situation in humans is more complex. Previous studies have suggested that women prefer the scent of men with dissimilar HLA to their own. To date only very few studies have looked at HLA-linked olfactory preferences in men and these studies have revealed inconsistent results. Here we investigate men's HLA-associated preferences for women's body odours.

Methods: In contrast to previous studies, body odours were gathered at peak fertility (i.e., just before ovulation) when any HLA-associated odour preferences should be strongest. We scrutinized whether men's preference for women's body odours is modulated by (1) the number of shared HLA alleles between men and women, (2) HLA heterozygosity, and (3) the frequency of rare HLA alleles.

Results: We found that men could readily differentiate between odours they found attractive and odours they found less attractive, but that these preferences were not associated with HLA. Specifically, men did not prefer odours from women who are HLA dissimilar, HLA heterozygous, or who have rare HLA alleles.

Conclusions: Despite adopting rigorous methodology and a large sample size, we found no evidence that men prefer odours from women who are MHC dissimilar, MHC heterozygous, or who have rare MHC alleles. Together, these findings suggest that HLA has no effect on men's mate preferences.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Social Neuroscience and Social Psychology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Haematology, Oncology, Infectious Diseases, Laboratory Medicine and Hospital Pharmacy (DOLS) > Institute of Clinical Chemistry
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Cognitive Psychology, Perception and Methodology > Biologische Psychologie (SNF) [discontinued]

UniBE Contributor:

Lobmaier, Janek Simon, Probst, Fabian, Wirthmüller, Urs, Knoch, Daria


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology


[UNSPECIFIED] Typhaine Foundation ; [UNSPECIFIED] Mens Sana Foundation ; [4] Swiss National Science Foundation




Wilhelm Klatt

Date Deposited:

29 Jun 2017 13:51

Last Modified:

22 May 2023 09:29




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