|Human beings possess a sophisticated olfactory system that is capable of recognizing and discriminating among thousands of different types of smells / Photo by Pressmaster via Shutterstock|
People may have heard the word pheromone being thrown left and right when it comes to topics on as sexuality, attraction, and even subliminal control. There isn’t much known about it, even when you talk about the members of the animal kingdom that have been found to use pheromones regularly.
Does such a chemical actually exist in our species, and can humans potentially use it for our benefit?
Olfactory Chemical Signals
Human beings possess a sophisticated olfactory system that is capable of recognizing and discriminating among thousands of different types of smells. In fact, many scientists believe that memories formed from our sense of smell are the strongest out of all the senses. Our olfactory system’s ability to interpret the different chemical compounds and alert us if what we’re smelling is something edible or toxic. However, in the animal kingdom, animals and insects are able to emit their own specific secretions with smells for different purposes. This is often found in the sweat and natural oil of these creatures, and it acts as a silent communication system to others in the species.
Pheromones, therefore, are the chemicals produced by creatures to change or influence the behavior of another. According to Medical News Today, these are ectohormones, which are like hormones but are secreted outside of the body. Insects use pheromones as one of their primary communication methods. Some of the things communicated include raising an alarm for nearby predators or danger, marking their territory, signaling to a group where to find a source of food, warning an enemy to stay away, and, most famously, attracting potential mates.
Studies on Pheromones
Humans also have their fair share of secretions and oils that may actually be hiding a wealth of chemical information and messages. But even with half a century’s worth of research, scientists haven’t yet found any truly conclusive evidence to show that humans secrete or can even be influenced by pheromones.
There have been experiments done that showcased humans having a response in terms of other’ body odor and scent, according to Scientific American. In fact, there was evidence that the sweat of other females could cause changes in the menstrual cycle of women. Men’s testosterone levels were found to increase if they smelled the scent of an ovulating woman. However, the validity of these studies has recently been put into question.
Other studies revolving around these ideas focused on components of sweat. Androstadienone, which is a component of male sweat, has been shown to affect brain areas linked with social cognition and mood, as well as increasing attraction. It also seems to improve cooperation between males. Androstenone is another male secretion thought to raise female libido.
Some studies took different human pheromone candidates and attempted to assess if there was any difference in their perceptions between pictures that had different pheromones associated with each. They presented the participants with gender-neutral faces and asked them to identify their actual gender. Scientists attempted to sway their answers by using male and female pheromone candidates, as stated by Science magazine. There was, however, no significant difference in the results that proved the pheromones had an effect.
Despite this, supporters of the human pheromone theory believe that these compounds were pheromones, but that the method of performing the experiment had been faulty, which led to the inconclusive findings.
Lack of Evidence
Although these findings provided a good start, researchers were unable to prove that these biological responses occurred as a result of an actual pheromone. They believe from studies previously done that humans have a much subtler reaction and detection of pheromones, and that they affect mood and mental state more than anything else. One example was when they found those who smelled the sweat coming from first-time parachute jumpers could better distinguish subtle emotional expressions. This may be because the sweat was lined with an alarm-signaling chemical that put others on high alert and with better attention to detail.
|Many websites and shops claim to sell human pheromones to increase romantic attraction and the like / Photo by Iakov Filimonov via Shutterstock|
Objectively speaking, scientists have not even found the specific chemicals within sweat and oils to prove that specific pheromones exist in our species. Though studies have been done that showed human babies crawling toward the scent of their mothers, this may simply because they recognized the odor print of their mother, and not because of any specific pheromone prompting the action. A person’s unique scent has far too many components to be considered a pheromone in itself.
Indeed, there is plenty still unknown about pheromones that can help spur the continuation of research. Even if the influence of the chemicals is not as pronounced as those found in animals, there may still be a subtle reaction from humans. Even in tiny amounts, the chemicals could still have effects on brain functions.
Many websites and shops claim to sell human pheromones to increase romantic attraction and the like, but buyers should be wary and skeptical next time they find such claims.