Karen Wu, a doctoral candidate at University of California, Irvine, is in the midst of a study that involves oral contraceptives, pheromones, and speed dating. And of course, young men and women. Her goal is to see if there is a correlation between oral contraceptives and picking the right partner, or wrong one.
In an Oct. 9 interview, Wu spoke of her study on mate selection and one factor that can derail the body’s own system for providing the choice mate – one that will produce the fittest offspring.
Wu has a Master’s degree from UC Irvine and an undergraduate degree in Psychology from UC Berkeley. According to Wu, her interest in the dynamics of intimate relationships has budded into an unusual study - a study in which she is looking at whether oral contraceptives interrupt women's ideal mate selection.
In this very unique study, Wu is looking to answer two questions, “Does genetic compatibility play a role in whom we are attracted to and choose to date?” and “Do oral contraceptives reverse women's genetically-based mate preferences?”
She cites previous research that suggests that genetic compatibility via major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes may play an important role in human mate selection, and other studies that give indication that oral contraceptives may disrupt the detection system designed to determine this genetic compatibility.
Employing three-minute speed dating intervals among 10 females and 10 males, followed by brief questionnaires to indicate sexual chemistry, attractiveness of body scent, and other indicators of desirability, Wu does follow ups to see if any romantic relationships develop. When asked about initial observations, Wu said, “A good number of participants go on subsequent dates with each other, although none so far have developed long-term relationships.”
She is gearing up to run more of the speed dating trials, a design which she says “participants' mate choices have real-life consequences.”
The chemistry of it all comes from cheek swab samples of DNA of the individuals, which of course comes before the kiss!
You can find out more about Karen Wu’s research here.
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