Lesbian and putative pheromone study, Part 4

Much correspondence has gone on regarding this study and the way it has been reported by the Associated Press. I can say this: the Associated Press writer, Randolph Schmid, has been made aware that the new study says nothing about whether sexual behavior is learned. Here is a quote from a recent email from Dr. Savic: “The easiest way to clarify the situation is to go to the original data. I do therefore refer to the manuscript in PNAS. The study does not give answer to the cause-effect issue. Sincerely, Ivanka Savic”

She also pointed out other flaws in the AP report. For instance, this section is misleading:

“Heterosexual women found the male and female pheromones about equally pleasant, while straight men and lesbians liked the female pheromone more than the male one. Men and lesbians also found the male hormone more irritating than the female one, while straight women were more likely to be irritated by the female hormone than the male one.All three groups rated the male hormone more familiar than the female one. Straight women found both hormones about equal in intensity, while lesbians and straight men found the male hormone more intense than the female one.”

To this, Dr. Savic said: “…the perception of these compounds was similar in ALL the subjects and all statements [in the AP article] about the pleasantness, irritability etc. are erroneous.”

In fairness to Mr. Schmid, the graph in the article gives the impression of differences but in statistical terms, the differences were small enough that they cannot be considered signficant. The AP report gives the impression that there were more sexual preference related differences than were actually found.

So we have this situation: the AP writer knows the study author has found significant errors in the story. She even asked if they could be corrected and to date there has been no correction. Perhaps one is in the works. Corrections are issued all the time, I wonder why this story is different.

I do not take interest in this just to be difficult. I think the media have a great responsibility in this climate to report accurately. And saying that “the findings add weight to the idea that homosexuality…is not learned behavior” is not accurate reporting. The other factual errors just add weight to the idea that a correction is in order.