Baby odor blocks aggression in men – but triggers it in women

Born yesterday and already starting with drama.

A new study has found that a scent emitted by newborns causes a surprising gender response.

According to research led by researchers at the Israel Weizmann Institute of Science, the man-made molecule hexadecanal (HEX) – which is found in large amounts on the baby’s scalp – triggers aggression in women, while blocking it in men. The results were published this month in the journal Science Advances.

“We found that HEX has no noticeable odor, but that when you sniff at it, it affects the way you behave towards others – specifically your aggressive reactions to others,” said Dr. Eva Mishor, who led the study, in a press release.

To establish this, the researchers exposed about half of the study’s 130 participants to HEX, while the rest received a check. They then gave the test subjects the opportunity to blow up a game partner with unpleasant sounds of varying intensity. While women exposed to HEX consistently went for the loudest and most unpleasant sounds, men exposed to HEX consistently chose milder sounds than their non-HEX exposed counterparts.

While perhaps an intuitive finding based on societal gender norms, Mishor argued that gender differentiation has an evolutionary explanation.

“Male aggression often results in aggression towards newborns; Child murder is a very real phenomenon in the animal kingdom. In the meantime, female aggression usually results in defensive offspring, ”she said. “HEX, it seems, affects men by the fact that there was more social regulation, their aggression was kept in check, and it served as a ‘cool down’ signal for them, while regulation in women fell, and it can be perceived as a ‘set free’ signal. “

baby odor examination
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The response of the molecular mind is in a way babies’ evolutionary strategy of communicating with their parents to increase their chances of survival. “Babies cannot communicate through language, so chemical communication is very important to them,” said Professor Noam Sobel, whose research team led the study. “As a baby, it’s in your best interest to make your mother more aggressive and reduce your father’s aggression.”

In addition to the discovery that the smell of HEX affects men differently than women, the study is “among the first” to show a direct link between the odor of a molecule and human behavior.


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