What We Really Know About Pheromones [UPDATED]

Pheromones might work by making the women feel more at ease with men. And it may make them feel more attractive to them or more attracted to them.

Pheromones and Attraction Experiments

In this article, I share the findings of various research on human pheromones.

Androstenone Boosts Attraction

In this study, three men and three women competing for student office were brought into a room. And after each candidate made a presentation, volunteers were asked to rate the candidates on their perceived leadership. Each volunteer wore a surgical mask and was told the purpose of the mask was to disguise their faces. As a result,  their facial expressions would not be visible to the political hopefuls.

In reality, the masks of half the volunteers had been imbued either with androstenone, a molecular variant of the pheromone androstenol, or human vaginal secretions. The male volunteers wearing the treated masks responded to the candidates in much the same way as did the male volunteers wearing the untreated masks.

The female volunteers whose masks contained vaginal secretions preferred candidates who seemed shy and modest. And they gave the aggressive candidates low marks. But the female volunteers wearing androstenone-treated masks preferred the outgoing, bold candidates over the quiet, unassuming ones.

Pheromones Influence Human Behavior

These studies are interesting and provocative because they suggest our moods and behaviors can be directly affected by pheromones. Pheromone researcher David Berliner suspects that some people may even be able to detect another person’s moods by “reading” their airborne pheromonal cues.

He hasn’t tested his theory yet, but he has spoken to several people who have unusually sensitive VNOs. These individuals have told Berliner that they can “translate” a person’s mood, but don’t know how they can do this. They are sure only that they are powerfully affected by the presence of other people.

Berliner thinks this ability may have more to do with pheromonal communication and the sixth sense than extrasensory perception.

Without relying on other sensory cues is the person frowning? Is his voice strained? Perspiring more than normal? Is it he fidgeting people with highly tuned VNOs may be able to read a person’s mood based solely on the pheromones he or she is sending into the air.

Pheromones secrete through sweat

Those of you who live in places with long winters know firsthand the glory of replacing wool and down with T-shirts and shorts. Wonderful things can happen when we uncover our skin. One study found that summertime sex is the steamiest, the most erotic, and occurs more frequently than in the quieter months of winter.

We sweat profusely in the summer, too, and this sweat does more than cool our bodies. It also holds our pheromones and allows them to waft into the air and then enter the VNOs of our friends, and acquaintances, and the people we pass on the street.

We’re not as grumpy in the summer, either, because extended hours of sunlight trigger bursts of mood-elevating estrogen in both men and women.

The Pheromone Mother-Baby Bond

Picture a fetus suspended in its mother’s womb. It wants for nothing. Its environment is perfectly climate-controlled, its appetite is sated at a moment’s notice, and its daily rhythms are determined by an ancient code designed to keep it in a happy state of equilibrium.

It is always a treat to watch a mother-to-be communicate with her developing baby. She pats and caresses her stomach, plays music to the small being in her body, coos and sings softly. After the baby is born, people will marvel at the degree to which the mother and infant have already cemented their bond. Onlookers will notice that the infant often squawks and screams until it is in the arms of its mother; no other form of comforting will assuage the baby.

A mother has the uncanny ability to recognize her infant by how he smells and, some scientists think, by his pheromones. And a newborn can identify the smell of his own mother even if he can’t see her or hear her voice. Infants being prepped for surgery are often swaddled with things that smell like their mothers—a blouse, a blanket, a pillowcase. As the baby dozes under the anesthetic, it feels protected and nurtured in the presence of its mother’s pheromone scent.

What gives a baby the ability to identify its mother in a room full of people, even when its just a few days old? What compels a baby to crave its mother’s—and only its mother’s— breast? In his writings, Charles Darwin noted that an infant will instinctively turn its head toward its mother’s nipple; he attributed the behavior to a recognition of either the mother’s body odor or the comforting heat of her body.

Pheromone Links To Human Bonding

While the pheromonal link to tribal bonding is not conclusive by scientific studies, the theory makes sense. Pheromones are a form of subtle chemical communication. They are a way to “read” another person or group of people, and the closer we are to people, the more tuned in to them we can be. Says ethnomedicine scholar Terence McKenna in the book Trialogues at the Edge of the West, “I think that pheromones are if vastly underrated for their organizing power in biology and social systems.”


Hopefully, this article gives you a clearer perspective on what we know about pheromones. Human pheromone research is ongoing so can expect more interesting discoveries.



Mark Alexander is a blogger from Los Angeles, CA that enjoys writing about dating and mens health.

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