Researchers from The University of Western Australia have conducted a study to test if the chemicals androstadienone (AND) and estratetraenol (EST) (commonly thought to be pheromones in humans) are pheromones and have found no evidence that they are.
Pheromones are chemical substances produced by animals. They have an important biological function of attracting individuals of the opposite sex to encourage them to procreate. Although many animals have a strong reliance on pheromones to attract a mate, there has been much debate on whether humans too have pheromones.
Previous research has indicated that the two chemicals AND and EST are possible pheromones in humans which has influenced the multi-billion dollar perfume industry to make perfumes that attract the opposite sex.
However UWA researchers questioned if AND and EST are pheromones in humans.
UWA School of Biological Sciences Professor Leigh Simmons, lead researcher of the study, said the researchers tested 94 heterosexual, Caucasian humans (43 male, 51 female) to see if pheromones had an impact on their behaviour.
He said the research involved a double-blind procedure in which neither participant or researcher were aware of the participants exposure to AND or EST until after the data was compiled and analysed.
Participants completed two computer-based tasks twice, on two consecutive days, after being exposed to a control scent on one day and a putative pheromone (AND or EST) on the other.
In the first task, participants indicated the gender (male or female) of five gender-neutral facial images. Exposure to AND or EST had no effect on their gender perception.
In the second task, participants rated photographs of opposite-sex faces for attractiveness and whether the person in the image would be an unfaithful partner. Exposure to the pheromones also had no effect on either attractiveness or unfaithfulness ratings.
The study has important implications for the beauty industry and for future research.
"Much of the research currently promoted focuses on studies that back AND and EST being pheromones in humans, because of human fascination on how we can improve our attractiveness to the opposite sex.
"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."
Professor Simmons said the UWA research raised important issues.
"It shows the need for more studies in this area that are transparent and objective with the way they carry out the research, to help us deliver more conclusive results and find out if there are actually pheromones in humans."
The study is being published in Royal Society Open Science.
Jess Reid (UWA Media and PR Adviser) (+61 8) 6488 6876