Putative sex-specific human pheromones do not affect gender perception, attractiveness ratings or unfaithfulness judgements of opposite sex faces

Robin M. Hare, Sophie Schlatter, Gillian Rhodes, Leigh W. Simmons

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19 Citations (Web of Science)


Debate continues over the existence of human sex pheromones. Two substances, androstadienone (AND) and estratetraenol (EST), were recently reported to signal male and female gender, respectively, potentially qualifying them as human sex pheromones. If AND and EST truly signal gender, then they should affect reproductively relevant behaviours such as mate perception. To test this hypothesis, heterosexual, Caucasian human participants completed two computer-based tasks twice, on two consecutive days, exposed to a control scent on one day and a putative pheromone (AND or EST) on the other. In the first task, 46 participants (24 male, 22 female) indicated the gender (male or female) of five genderneutral facial morphs. Exposure to AND or EST had no effect on gender perception. In the second task, 94 participants (43 male, 51 female) rated photographs of opposite-sex faces for attractiveness and probable sexual unfaithfulness. Exposure to the putative pheromones had no effect on either attractiveness or unfaithfulness ratings. These results are consistent with those of other experimental studies and reviews that suggest AND and EST are unlikely to be human pheromones. The double-blind nature of the current study lends increased support to this conclusion. If human sex pheromones affect our judgements of gender, attractiveness or unfaithfulness from faces, they are unlikely to be AND or EST.

Original languageEnglish
Article number160831
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2017

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