3/08/2016

What pheromones reveal about your mood, sexual orientation, and your genetic makeup


The sight of someone in tears might make you feel concerned. But the smell of tears, researchers say, has a different effect.

"You might think—we did—that [smelling] tears might create empathy,” says Noam Sobel, a neurobiologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. He and his colleagues had women watch a sad movie scene, collected their tears and placed samples of the unidentified fluid under men’s noses. The tears did not elicit empathy in a standard lab test, but they did reduce the men’s sexual arousal and testosterone levels. Apparently the tears sent a message that romance was off the table.

This study offers some of the most recent evidence that people perceive all sorts of interesting things about one another through olfaction. Airborne molecules that elicit a reaction in a member of the same species are called pheromones, and the most famous ones are potent aphrodisiacs, like androstenone and androstenol in the saliva of male boars. If a fertile female gets a whiff of these molecules, she’ll present her rear to the male, a universal gesture in wild pig patois that means, “Let’s start a family.”

Researchers (as well as fragrance companies) have been hoping to find a human sex pheromone for decades, but so far the search has failed, says George Preti of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. “That doesn’t mean a human sex pheromone doesn’t exist,” Preti is quick to add. “It just means we haven’t found one yet.” In fact, some researchers suspect that if there is a turn-off pheromone, as Sobel’s team says, there’s likely to be a turn-on pheromone.....more