Martha McClintock (born on February 22, 1947) is an American psychologist best known for her research on human pheromones and her theory of menstrual synchrony. In essence, her research pertains to the relationship that the environment and biology have upon sexual behaviour. She is the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago and is the Founder and Director of the Institute for Mind and Biology.
McClintock was born in Pasadena, California, and obtained her Bachelor's degree from Wellesley College in 1970. It was while at Wellesley that she conducted a research study of menstrual synchrony in women living in a college dormitory. Her study asserted that women living together in a close community without the presence of males synchronized their menstrual cycles with each other. The McClintock effect of menstrual synchrony is named after this study, which was published in the journal Nature in 1971.
McClintock then obtained her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania with Norman Adler in 1974 and obtained a faculty position in the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago in 1976. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Comparative Human Development, the Committee on Evolutionary Biology, and the Committee on Neurobiology. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Institute of Medicine in the National Academy of Sciences, and has received numerous awards and distinctions for her groundbreaking research.In 1982,she has received the APA Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology for original and broadly conceived research on the social regulation of reproductive function.
She proposed that the impact of menstrual synchrony is influenced by the two opposing axillary pheromones. Pheromones are simply chemical substances secreted by an animal which has an effect on the behaviour of a member of its species. These two opposing axillary pheromones influence the important events that occur in the reproductive cycle, possibly leading to contraception or treatment of sterility.
In 1992 H. Clyde Wilson, professor of anthropology at the University of Missouri published a critique of McClintock's research in Psychoneuroendochrinology. In that article, as well as in a 1987 article on human pheromones and menstruation published in Hormones and Behavior, Wilson analyzed the research and data collection methods McClintock and others used in their studies. He found significant errors in the researchers' mathematical calculations and data collection as well as an error in how the researchers defined synchrony. Wilson's own clinical research and his critical reviews of existing research have clearly demonstrated that menstrual synchrony in humans has not been proven.
In 1999, she founded the Institute for Mind and Biology at the University of Chicago, a research institute designed to foster transdisciplinary research in mind-body interactions and the biological basis of behavior. This innovative Institute enabled the creation of the Center for Interdisciplinary Health Disparities Research (CIHDR), a multi million dollar initiative to explore and understand why African American women have a higher incidence of mortality from breast cancer than Caucasian women. McClintock is Co-Director of the Center.
Some of McClintock's other work include: Pheromonal regulation of the ovarian cycle: Enhancement, suppression and synchrony., Group mating in the domestic rat as a context for sexual selection: Consequences for analysis of sexual behavior and neuroendocrine responses., and A functional approach to the behavioral endocrinology of rodents.
More recently, McClintock and Tom A. Hummer published research which indicates that the human pheromone, androstadienone, found in sweat and saliva, can modify the psychological, physiological and hormonal responses of humans, a subtle form of human chemical communication.
McClintock believes that being able to control the ratio of male and female offspring in a litter can potentially lead to an improved understanding of the reasons that cause miscarriage. In general, Martha McClintock always tries to answer the question of how biology and one's environment influences sexual behaviour in her research.
Areas of Research
Dr. McClintock's current research focuses on the interaction between behavior and reproductive endocrinology and immunology. Since the connection between behavior and endocrine function, Dr. McClintock recently concentrate on the behavioral control of endocrinology, as well as to the hormonal and neuroendocrine mechanisms of behavior. She studies pheromones, sexual behavior, fertility and reproductive hormones from experiments on animal and parallel clinical processes on in human beings. She also studies the psychosocial origins of malignant and infectious disease, "Applying it to the dramatic health disparity in cancer promoting genes between African-American women and women of Northern European ancestry."
Professor McClintock is the recipient of numerous distinctions, including the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology, the University of Chicago's Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching, and the Wellesley College Alumnae Achievement Award. She is not only elected to become a member of the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, but also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Animal Behavior Society, the American Psychological Society, the American Psychological Association, and the International Academy of Sex Research.
- "Martha K. McClintock: Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology". American Psychologist, Vol 38(1), Jan 1983, 57-60. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.38.1.57
- Bass, E. (1996, Martha McClintock: Of mice and women. Ms, 6(5), 31-31.
- "IMB Martha K. McClintock". 2004-03-14. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
- McClintock MK (1971). "Menstrual synchrony and suppression". Nature 229 (5282): 244-5. doi:10.1038/229244a0 PMID 4994256.
- American Psychologist 0003-066X 1935-990X American Psychological Association January 1983 38 1 amp_38_1_57 10.1037/0003-066X.38.1.57 2005-08430-017 award 57 60 1983 American Psychological Association
- Whitten, W. (1999). Reproductive biology: Pheromones and regulation of ovulation. Nature, 401(6750), 232-232. doi:10.1038/45720.
- Wilson, H.C. (1992). A critical review of menstrual synchrony research. Psychoneuroendochrinology 17 (6), 565-591.
- Wilson, H.C. (1987). Female axillary secretions influence women's menstrual cycles: A critique. Hormones and Behavior, 21, 536-546.
- Center for Interdisciplinary Health Disparities Research
- Hummer, T.A., & McClintock, M.K. (2009). Putative human pheromone androstadienone attunes the mind specifically to emotional information. Hormones and Behavior, 55(4), 548-559. doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2009.01.002.
- Bass, E. (1996, Martha McClintock: Of mice and women. Ms, 6(5), 31-31. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.qa.proquest.com/docview/204301464?accountid=14771
- her study as published in Nature