No fooling; visual appeal is not determined by what we see


Background: Its role in guiding behavior determines the utility of sensory information, but recent results show that visual input is not directly responsible for guiding behaviors associated with classification of differences between animate and inanimate objects (Mahon, Anzellotti, Schwarzbach, Zampini, & Caramazza, 2009).  Researchers who claim that visual input has greater incentive salience than olfactory/pheromonal input could help others understand the development of human sexual behavior if they would only tell us what model they are using for their determination of relative salience.

Evidence: Despite their social and biological relevance, no animal model supports any conclusion from cognitive neuroscience that suggests the perception of people is based on brain mechanisms specifically devoted to processing any class of visual information (see for review Hari & Kujala, 2009). In contrast, all animal models support the conclusion that the processing of olfactory/pheromonal information is both socially and biologically the most relevant class of stimuli (Kohl, 2012). This fact begs the question of why any face or body response to visual input from human conspecifics is enhanced by nudity (Hietanen & Nummenmaa, 2011). Indeed, the social brain network evolves perfectly fine in the absence of vision (Bedny, Pascual-Leone, & Saxe, 2009).

Context: Sexual behavior in unclothed mammals is preceded by social behaviors important for food acquisition, which allows all species to establish their ecological and social niche. In this context, what do brain imaging results linked to sexual responses, or more specifically to paraphilias, tell us about behavioral development in people? Is there a model for that (Karremans, Frankenhuis, & Arons, 2010)?


Bedny, M., Pascual-Leone, A., & Saxe, R. R. (2009). Growing up blind does not change the neural bases of Theory of Mind. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A., 106(27), 11312-11317.

Hari, R., & Kujala, M. V. (2009). Brain Basis of Human Social Interaction: From Concepts to Brain Imaging. Physiological Reviews, 89(2), 453-479.

Hietanen, J. K., & Nummenmaa, L. (2011). The Naked Truth: The Face and Body Sensitive N170 Response Is Enhanced for Nude Bodies. PLoS ONE, 6(11), e24408.

Karremans, J. C., Frankenhuis, W. E., & Arons, S. (2010). Blind men prefer a low waist-to-hip ratio. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31(3), 182-186.

Kohl, J. V. (2012). Human pheromones and food odors: epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 2(Accessed March 15, 2012),

Mahon, B. Z., Anzellotti, S., Schwarzbach, J., Zampini, M., & Caramazza, A. (2009). Category-Specific Organization in the Human Brain Does Not Require Visual Experience. Neuron, 63(3), 397-405.


About James V. Kohl 1308 Articles
James Vaughn Kohl was the first to accurately conceptualize human pheromones, and began presenting his findings to the scientific community in 1992. He continues to present to, and publish for, diverse scientific and lay audiences, while constantly monitoring the scientific presses for new information that is relevant to the development of his initial and ongoing conceptualization of human pheromones. Recently, Kohl integrated scientific evidence that pinpoints the evolved neurophysiological mechanism that links olfactory/pheromonal input to genes in hormone-secreting cells of tissue in a specific area of the brain that is primarily involved in the sensory integration of olfactory and visual input, and in the development of human sexual preferences. His award-winning 2007 article/book chapter on multisensory integration: The Mind’s Eyes: Human pheromones, neuroscience, and male sexual preferences followed an award winning 2001 publication: Human pheromones: integrating neuroendocrinology and ethology, which was coauthored by disinguished researchers from Vienna. Rarely do researchers win awards in multiple disciplines, but Kohl’s 2001 award was for neuroscience, and his 2007 “Reiss Theory” award was for social science. Kohl has worked as a medical laboratory scientist since 1974, and he has devoted more than twenty-five years to researching the relationship between the sense of smell and the development of human sexual preferences. Unlike many researchers who work with non-human subjects, medical laboratory scientists use the latest technology from many scientific disciplines to perform a variety of specialized diagnostic medical testing on people. James V. Kohl is certified with: * American Society for Clinical Pathology * American Medical Technologists James V. Kohl is a member of: * Society for Neuroscience * Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology * Association for Chemoreception Sciences * Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality * International Society for Human Ethology * American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science * Mensa, the international high IQ society