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New Study is First to Link Romantic Relationships to Genes

New research suggests that choosing a mate may be partially determined by your genes. A study published in Psychological Science has found a link between a set of genes involved with immune function and partner selection in humans.

Vertebrate species and humans are inclined to prefer mates who have dissimilar MHC (major histocompatibility complex) genotypes, rather than similar ones. This preference may help avoid inbreeding between partners, as well as strengthen the immune systems of their offspring through exposure to a wider variety of pathogens.

The study investigated whether MHC similarity among romantically involved couples predicted aspects of their sexual relationship. “As the proportion of the couple’s shared genotypes increased, womens' sexual responsivity to their partners decreased, their number of extra-pair sexual partners increased and their attraction to men other than their primary partners increased, particularly during the fertile phase of their cycles,” says Christine Garver-Apgar, author of the study.

This study offers some understanding of the basis for romantic chemistry, and is the first to show that compatible genes can influence the sexual relationships of romantic couples.

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This study is published in Psychological Science. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact

Christine Garver-Apgar, M.S., is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Mexico in the area of evolutionary psychology. Her past research has examined effects of genetic compatibility on sexual relationships, women’s shifting mate preferences across the ovulatory cycle, and women’s strategies to reduce risk of sexual coercion. She can be reached for questions or interview at

With a citation ranking/impact factor placing it in the top ten psychology journals worldwide, Psychological Science is a leader in the field. The flagship journal of The Association for Psychological Science (previously the American Psychological Society), the journal publishes authoritative articles of interest across all of psychological science, including brain and behavior, clinical science, cognition, learning and memory, social psychology, and developmental psychology. For more information, please visit

Blackwell Publishing is the world’s leading society publisher, partnering with 665 medical, academic, and professional societies. Blackwell publishes over 800 journals and has over 6,000 books in print. The company employs over 1,000 staff members in offices in the US, UK, Australia, China, Singapore, Denmark, Germany, and Japan. Blackwell’s mission as an expert publisher is to create long-term partnerships with our clients that enhance learning, disseminate research, and improve the quality of professional practice.

Sean Wagner | EurekAlert!
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