- Evidence suggests that humans unconsciously exchange chemical messages that help to synchronize women’s menstrual cycles, signify the presence of kin, and convey moods such as stress or fear.
- The signals may be akin to the pheromones found in hundreds of animal species, including mammals.
- Researchers are isolating the compounds secreted by humans and attempting to decode their physiological and psychological effects.
The moment that started martha mcclintock’s scientific career was a whim of youth. Even, she recalls, a ridiculous moment. It is summer, 1968, and she is a Wellesley College student attending a workshop at the Jackson Laboratory in Maine. A lunch-table gathering of established researchers is talking about how mice appear to synchronize their ovary cycles. And 20-year-old McClintock, sitting nearby, pipes up with something like, “Well, don’t you know? Women do that, too.”
“I don’t remember the exact words,” she says now, sitting relaxed and half-amused in her well-equipped laboratory at the University of Chicago. “But everyone turned and stared.” It is easy to imagine her in that distant encounter—the same direct gaze, the same friendly face and flyaway hair. Still, the lunch-table group is not charmed; it informs her that she does not know what she is talking about.
This article was originally published with the title The Scent of Your Thoughts.