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Human Pheromones Controversy

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Back in 2000, there was an endorsement of pheromone molecules by leading scientist Dr. Winifred Cutler who was by that stage already famous for her work on pheromones. She'd published a paper in 1998 on the suggestion that menstrual synchrony in women was in fact driven by pheromones. This pheromone could collect from the armpits of women at one stage of the cycle and affect the cycle of other women by putting it under their nose.

 Controversy on Human Pheromones


It was highly contested at the time, but it got an enormous amount of publicity and she was already famous. So when she used these molecules in a study of psychological state and mood in men and women, it gave us pheromones instant credibility. And the only reason she used them was because of the 1991 symposium paper that had no methods so far as the molecule source was concerned.

Since 2000, there are more than 40 papers using these molecules. And these have themselves gathered hundreds of citations all over the literature. The studies were done by good scientists, and they go into prestigious journals and they usually reference the particular article by Jacob Mcclintock. But there is still no evidence that human pheromones truly exist. The trail always goes back to the paper in 2000. And from there it goes back to 1991 where there is no evidence presented. And without that evidence, I'm afraid it's junk science. Learn more at http://astrobiosociety.org

And to give one example, there's a study, which uses concentrations o the crystalline molecule a million times more than was ever found in a human armpit. And then does high-tech brain scans and then makes all sorts of claims about differences between men and women and people of different sexual orientation. And that paper has been cited hundreds of times in medical textbooks, papers on sexual orientation, and it's even come up in medical advice on legislation. So it's junk science, but it has an amazing life of its own. Learn more at http://pheromones-work.weebly.com

Well, how did it all happen?


I think the key thing was the top scientists endorsement of pheromones in 2000, but other things were on. There was a growing literature that assumed that these molecules really were human pheromones. And nobody seemed to be going back to the source to verify the information. So, how come all these people found something and doesn't this mean there was something there? And the answer which is causing a crisis across psychology and many parts of biology is that positive publication bias is there. Learn more at http://sundowndivers.org

In other words, what people are looking for now is something that is exciting, new, and a positive result. That's how you get published and you're more likely to be rewarded for that than for getting something right. The second thing is a lack of reputation. You can't get a grant to repeat somebody else's work because it's already been done. And if you've got a negative result, if you couldn't repeat it, you wouldn't publish it anyway. Why? Because that's not a positive result. So what happens is only positive results get published and it's actually quite easy by chance to get positive results. It's actually far too easy.