No, humans aren't affected by pheromones

By Adam Florance
Thursday, 09 March, 2017

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Forget what the cosmetics industry tells you — a new study from the University of Western Australia (UWA) has found that the role of pheromones in human sexual attraction is inconclusive and largely speculative.

For decades, the cosmetics industry has been trying to prove that the addition of pheromones to perfumes and body sprays can help attract the opposite sex. But this latest study indicates that if humans are affected by pheromones, we don’t yet know what they are or what role they play.

While many animals, especially insects, and some plants rely heavily on pheromones for procreation, there is no conclusive proof that humans have functional pheromones. A team led by UWA School of Biological Sciences Professor Leigh Simmons decided to test the chemicals androstadienone (AND) and estratetraenol (EST) to see if their purported abilities to effect human sexual attraction were tangible.

The researchers devised a double-blind procedure to test 94 heterosexual, Caucasian subjects over two days on gender perception, attractiveness and perceived unfaithfulness. Neither the subjects nor the researchers were aware of the participants’ exposure to the test pheromones until after the compiled data was analysed. Exposure to both EST and AND had no tangible effect on any of the subjects.

Previous studies have indicated that AND and EST might be pheromones in humans and the multibillion-dollar perfume industry has accepted that theory.  Professor Simmons said, “Much of the research currently promoted focuses on studies that back AND and EST being pheromones in humans, because of the human fascination on how we can improve our attractiveness to the opposite sex.”

Although there is plenty of research debunking the pheromone myth, it tends to be overshadowed by the hype created by the pro-pheromone lobby.

“This contributes to a skew in public perception on whether humans do have pheromones, with many people believing we do, because research suggesting the opposite tends not to be as published, and if it is published it does not get the same degree of attention,” said Professor Simmons.

Professor Simmons believes more research needs to be done in this area that is “transparent and objective” in order to “deliver more conclusive results and find out if there are actually pheromones in humans.”

This study was published in Royal Society Open Science.

Image credit: ©olly/Dollar Photo Club

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