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Few well-controlled scientific studies have ever been published suggesting the possibility of pheromones in humans.

The best known case involves the synchronization of menstrual cycles among women based on unconscious odor cues (the McClintock effect, named after the primary investigator, Martha McClintock, of the University of Chicago).[1][2] This study exposed a group of women to a whiff of perspiration from other women. It was found that it caused their menstrual cycles to speed up or slow down depending on the time in the month the sweat was collected; before, during, or after ovulation. Therefore, this study proposed that there are two types of pheromone involved: "One, produced prior to ovulation, shortens the ovarian cycle; and the second, produced just at ovulation, lengthens the cycle". However, recent studies and reviews of the McClintock methodology have called into question the validity of her results.[3]

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A newspaper report([4]) suggested that women with irregular menstrual cycles became regular when exposed to male underarm extracts, and hypothesized that male sweat contains pheromones, which mirror how pheromones affect other mammals.[4]

Other studies have demonstrated that the smell of androstadienone, a chemical component of male sweat, maintains higher levels of cortisol in females,[5] and that the compound is detected via the olfactory mucosa.[6] The scientists suggest that the ability of this compound to influence the endocrine balance of the opposite sex makes it a human pheromonal chemosignal. In 2002, a study showed an unnamed synthetic chemical in women's perfume appeared to increase intimate contact with men. The authors hypothesize, but do not demonstrate, that the observed behavioural differences are olfactorily mediated.[7] This and a previous study by the same authors with the still undisclosed "pheromone" preparation has been heavily criticized for having methodological flaws and that upon re-analyzing there was no effect seen.[8][9]

Other studies have suggested that people might be using odor cues associated with the immune system to select mates who are not closely related to themselves. Using a brain imaging technique, Swedish researchers have shown that homosexual and heterosexual males' brains respond differently to two odors that may be involved in sexual arousal, and that the homosexual men respond in the same way as heterosexual women, though it could not be determined whether this was cause or effect.[How to reference and link to summary or text] The study was expanded to include homosexual women; the results were consistent with previous findings meaning that homosexual women were not as responsive to male identified odors, while their response to female cues were similar to that of heterosexual males.[10] According to the researchers, this research suggests a possible role for human pheromones in the biological basis of sexual orientation.[11] In 2008, it was found using functional magnetic resonance imaging that the right orbitofrontal cortex, right fusiform cortex, and right hypothalamus respond to airborne natural human sexual sweat. [12]

In 2006, it was shown that a second mouse receptor sub-class is found in the olfactory epithelium. Called the trace amine-associated receptors (TAAR), some are activated by volatile amines found in mouse urine, including one putative mouse pheromone.[13] Orthologous receptors exist in humans providing, the authors propose, evidence for a mechanism of human pheromone detection.[14]

Some body spray advertisers claim that their products contain human sexual pheromones which act as an aphrodisiac. In the 1970s, "copulins" were patented as products which release human pheromones, based on research on rhesus monkeys.[15] Subsequently, androstenone, axillary sweat, and "vomodors" have been claimed to act as human pheromones.[16] Despite these claims, no pheromonal substance has ever been demonstrated to directly influence human behavior in a peer reviewed study.[15][16][17]


  1. McClintock MK (1971). "Menstrual synchrony and suppression". Nature 229 (5282): 244-5. PMID 4994256
  2. Stern K, McClintock MK (1998). "Regulation of ovulation by human pheromones". Nature 392 (6672): 177-9. doi:10.1038/32408. PMID 9515961.
  3. Yang, Zhengwei, Jeffrey C. Schank (2006). Women Do Not Synchronize Their Menstrual Cycles. Human Nature 17 (4): 434–447.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Looking for love potion number nine, Cathryn M. Delude, Boston Globe, September 2, 2003.
  5. Wyart C, Webster WW, Chen JH, Wilson SR, McClary A, Khan RM, Sobel N (February 2007). Smelling a single component of male sweat alters levels of cortisol in women. The Journal of Neuroscience : the Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 27 (6): 1261–5.
  6. Savic I, Hedén-Blomqvist E, Berglund H. (2009). Pheromone signal transduction in humans: What can be learned from olfactory loss. Hum Brain Mapp. 30(9):3057-3065. PMID 19235878
    1. REDIRECT Template:Doi
  7. (March 20 2002)San Francisco State University study shows that synthetic pheromones in women's perfume increase intimate contact with men. San Francisco State University Office of Public Affairs.
  8. Anders Winman (2004). Do perfume additives termed human pheromones warrant being termed pheromones?. Physiology & Behavior Volume , Issue 4, 30 September , Pages 82 (4): 697–701.
  9. Charles J. Wysocki, George Preti (1998). Pheromonal Influences. Archives of Sexual Behavior 27 (6): 627–641.
  10. Berglund H, Lindström P, Savic I (May 2006). Brain response to putative pheromones in lesbian women. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 103 (21): 8269–74.
  11. Wade, N. "Gay Men are found to have Different Scent of Attraction." NY Times, May 9, 2005
  12. [Wen], Denise Chen (March 20 2008). Encoding human sexual chemosensory cues in the orbitofrontal and fusiform cortices.. J Neurosci 25 (53): 14416–21.
  13. Liberles SD, Buck LB. 2006. A second class of chemosensory receptors in the olfactory epithelium. Nature. 442(7103):645-50. PMID 16878137
  14. Pearson H. 2006. Mouse data hint at human pheromones. Nature. 442(7102):495. PMID 16885951
  15. 15.0 15.1 Wyatt, Tristram D. (2003). Pheromones and Animal Behaviour: Communication by Smell and Taste. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-48526-6. p. 298 Quoting Preti & Weski (1999) "No peer reviewed data supporting the presences of...human...pheromones that cause rapid behavioral changes, such as attraction and/or copulation have been documented."
  16. 16.0 16.1 Hays, Warren S. T., Human pheromones: have they been demonstrated? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 2003, 54:89-97
  17. Bear, Mark F.; Barry W. Connors, Michael A. Paradiso (2006). Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 264 ...there has not yet been any hard evidence for human pheromones that might [change] sexual attraction (for members of either sex) [naturally]

Further readingEdit


  • Jacob, S., Zelano, B., Hayreh, D. J. S., & McClintock, M. K. (2002). Assessing putative human pheromones. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  • Labows, J. N., & Preti, G. (1992). Human semiochemicals. New York, NY: Elsevier Applied Science Publishers/Elsevier Science Publishers.


  • Bensafi, M., Brown, W. M., Khan, R., Levenson, B., & Sobel, N. (2004). Sniffing human sex-steroid derived compounds modulates mood, memory and autonomic nervous system function in specific behavioral contexts: Behavioural Brain Research Vol 152(1) Jun 2004, 11-22.
  • Bensafi, M., Tsutsui, T., Khan, R., Levenson, R. W., & Sobel, N. (2004). Sniffing a human sex-steroid derived compound affects mood and autonomic arousal in a dose-dependent manner: Psychoneuroendocrinology Vol 29(10) Nov 2004, 1290-1299.
  • Benton, D. (1982). The influence of androstenol--a putative human pheromone--on mood throughout the menstrual cycle: Biological Psychology Vol 15(3-4) Nov-Dec 1982, 249-256.
  • Benton, R. (2007). Sensitivity and specificity in Drosophila pheromone perception: Trends in Neurosciences Vol 30(10) Oct 2007, 512-519.
  • Black, S. L., & Biron, C. (1982). Androstenol as a human pheromone: No effect on perceived physical attractiveness: Behavioral & Neural Biology Vol 34(3) Mar 1982, 326-330.
  • Cutler, W. B. (1999). Human sex-attractant hormones: Discovery, research, development, and application in sex therapy: Psychiatric Annals Vol 29(1) Jan 1999, 54-59.
  • Cutler, W. B., Preti, G., Krieger, A., Huggins, G. R., & et al. (1986). Human axillary secretions influence women's menstrual cycles: The role of donor extract from men: Hormones and Behavior Vol 20(4) Dec 1986, 463-473.
  • De Bortoli, M., Tifner, S., & Zanin, L. (2001). The affect of the human androsterone pheromone on mood in men: Revista Intercontinental de Psicologia y Educacion Vol 3(1) 2001, 23-28.
  • Doty, R. L., Orndorff, M. M., Leyden, J., & Kligman, A. (1978). Communication of gender from human axillary odors: Relationship to perceived intensity and hedonicity: Behavioral & Neural Biology Vol 23(3) Jul 1978, 373-380.
  • Ebster, C., & Kirk-Smith, M. (2005). The Effect of the Human Pheromone Androstenol on Product Evaluation: Psychology & Marketing Vol 22(9) Sep 2005, 739-749.
  • Filsinger, E. E., Braun, J. J., & Monte, W. C. (1985). An examination of the effects of putative pheromones on human judgments: Ethology & Sociobiology Vol 6(4) 1985, 227-236.
  • Filsinger, E. E., Braun, J. J., Monte, W. C., & Linder, D. E. (1984). Human (Homo sapiens) responses to the pig (Sus scrofa) sex pheromone 5 alpha-androst-16-en-3-one: Journal of Comparative Psychology Vol 98(2) Jun 1984, 219-222.
  • Filsinger, E. E., & Monte, W. C. (1986). Sex history, menstrual cycle, and psychophysical ratings of alpha androstenone, a possible human sex pheromone: Journal of Sex Research Vol 22(2) May 1986, 243-248.
  • Grosser, B. I., Monti-Bloch, L., Jennings-White, C., & Berliner, D. L. (2000). Behavioral and electrophysiological effects of androstadienone, a human pheromone: Psychoneuroendocrinology Vol 25(3) Apr 2000, 289-300.
  • Gustavson, A. R., Dawson, M. E., & Bonett, D. G. (1987). Androstenol, a putative human pheromone, affects human (Homo sapiens) male choice performance: Journal of Comparative Psychology Vol 101(2) Jun 1987, 210-212.
  • Hays, W. S. T. (2003). Human pheromones: have they been demonstrated? : Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Vol 54(2) Jul 2003, 89-97.
  • Jacob, S. (1999). Steroids as human chemosignals: How isolated putative pheromones affect behavior, physiology and brain metabolism. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering.
  • Jacob, S., Hayreh, D. J. S., & McClintock, M. K. (2001). Context-dependent effects of steroid chemosignals on human physiology and mood: Physiology & Behavior Vol 74(1-2) Sep 2001, 15-27.
  • Knecht, M., Lundstrom, J. N., Witt, M., Huttenbrink, K.-B., Heilmann, S., & Hummel, T. (2003). Assessment of Olfactory Function and Androstenone Odor Thresholds in Humans With or Without Functional Occlusion of the Vomeronasal Duct: Behavioral Neuroscience Vol 117(6) Dec 2003, 1135-1141.
  • Knecht, M., Witt, M., Abolmaali, N., Huttenbrink, K. B., & Hummel, T. (2003). The human vomeronasal organ: Nervenarzt Vol 74(10) 2003, 858-862.
  • Kohl, J. V. (2007). The Mind's Eyes: Human Pheromones, Neuroscience, and Male Sexual Preferences: Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality Vol 18(4) 2007, 313-369.
  • {{cite journal | author = Kohl JV., Atzmueller M., Fink B., Grammer K. | year = 2001 | title = Human Pheromones: Integrating Neuroendocrinology and Ethology | url =


  • Kohl, JV., Atzmueller, M., Fink, B. & Grammer, K. (2001). Human Pheromones: Integrating Neuroendocrinology and Ethology. Neuroendocrinology Letters, 22(5), 319-331. Full text
  • Laska, M., Wieser, A., & Hernandez Salazar, L. T. (2006). Sex-Specific Differences in Olfactory Sensitivity for Putative Human Pheromones in Nonhuman Primates: Journal of Comparative Psychology Vol 120(2) May 2006, 106-112
  • Lundstrom, J. N., Goncalves, M., Esteves, F., & Olsson, M. J. (2003). Psychological effects of subthreshold exposure to the putative human pheromone 4,16-androstadien-3-one: Hormones and Behavior Vol 44(5) Dec 2003, 395-401.
  • Moffatt, C. A. (2003). Steroid hormone modulation of olfactory processing in the context of socio-sexual behaviors in rodents and humans: Brain Research Reviews Vol 43(2) Oct 2003, 192-206.
  • Morris, N. M., & Udry, J. R. (1978). Pheromonal influences on human sexual behaviour: An experimental search: Journal of Biosocial Science Vol 10(2) Apr 1978, 147-157.
  • Pause, B. M. (2004). Are androgen steroids acting as pheromones in humans? : Physiology & Behavior Vol 83(1) Oct 2004, 21-29.
  • Preti, G., Cutler, W. B., Garcia, C. R., Huggins, G. R., & et al. (1986). Human axillary secretions influence women's menstrual cycles: The role of donor extract of females: Hormones and Behavior Vol 20(4) Dec 1986, 474-482.
  • Rantala, M. J., Eriksson, C. J. P., Vainikka, A., & Kortet, R. (2006). Male steroid hormones and female preference for male body odor: Evolution and Human Behavior Vol 27(4) Jul 2006, 259-269.
  • Schank, J. C. (2006). Do human menstrual-cycle pheromones exist? : Human Nature Vol 17(4) 2006, 448-470.
  • Sokolov, J. J., Harris, R. T., & Hecker, M. R. (1976). Isolation of substances from human vaginal secretions previously shown to be sex attractant pheromones in higher primates: Archives of Sexual Behavior Vol 5(4) Jul 1976, 269-274.
  • Thornhill, R., & Gangestad, S. W. (1999). The scent of symmetry: A human sex pheromone that signals fitness? : Evolution and Human Behavior Vol 20(3) May 1999, 175-201.
  • Thornhill, R., Gangestad, S. W., Miller, R., Scheyd, G., McCollough, J. K., & Franklin, M. (2003). Major histocompatibility complex genes, symmetry, and body scent attractiveness in men and women: Behavioral Ecology Vol 14(5) Sep-Oct 2003, 668-678.
  • Wallace, P. (1977). Individual discrimination of humans by odor: Physiology & Behavior Vol 19(4) Oct 1977, 577-579.
  • Winman, A. (2004). Do perfume additives termed human pheromones warrant being termed pheromones? : Physiology & Behavior Vol 82(4) Sep 2004, 697-701.
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