The human attraction may not be as simple as saying you like someone because you’re compatible or “because the stars align.” Appeal and sex drive are a bit more complicated than we seem to think they are.
Pheromones are a crucial factor in the sexual responses of humans, and so, human attraction. However, various studies debate the role of pheromones in humans. Discussions on whether these compounds even function the same as that in animals are also common. But just how pivotal is the function of pheromones?
Why Are Pheromones so Important?
Pheromones are substances secreted by an individual that elicit a specific response from another individual of another species. The response does not necessarily be sexual. Many studies show pheromonal detection and reaction in various animal interactions and humans.
Apart from mate selection, pheromones have other functions. Some of these are modulating one’s mood and influencing another individual’s physiology. In this regard, as chemical signals, pheromones play a crucial role in various intra-species interactions.
Types of Pheromones Found in Humans?
Pheromones in humans are presumably present in secretions such as urine, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. It is even hypothesized to be present in human saliva. However, reports claim axillary sweat has more robust pheromonal compounds, especially in men.
Axillary sweat is a glandular secretion from the sweat and sebaceous glands. It is mainly composed of volatile organic acids. However, steroidal pheromones are more robust in men than in women, although present in both sexes. Examples of this type of pheromonal compound are androstadienone, androstenone, and androstenol.
The effects of these compounds are far more potent in women. The difference in skin microflora and volatility between the male and female human body is due to the potency of these compounds.
On the other, the most notable pheromone in human females is estratetraenol, found in the urine of pregnant women. The compound was also hypothesized to be present in women’s axillary sweat.
The Difference Between Human and Animal Pheromones
All this discussion about pheromones, yet how do humans produce pheromones? Humans excrete different chemicals in bodily secretions as any other vertebrate would. The main difference in animal vs. human pheromones lies in their detection.
Unlike most mammals, humans lack an organ necessary for automatically detecting pheromones. Humans technically have this organ, the vomeronasal organ, in their anatomy. However, it’s just another accessory organ like the appendix.
It is because of this very reason that humans aren’t able to detect pheromones easily in the air. As a result, human pheromones are still undergoing more research. On the other hand, animal pheromones have shown various functions and evolution.
Pheromones and Sex Drive
The function of human pheromones in eliciting a sexual response may still be up for debate. Pheromone perfumes are not necessarily said to affect your date’s sex drive. So, one can also infer that it wouldn’t be possible to smell your date’s pheromone.
11 Things You Should Know about Pheromones
Understanding the connection between pheromones and human sexual attraction entails pheromones and how they usually function.
Pheromones seem like such a complicated topic to dive into at first glance. Here are 11 things that might help you understand pheromones better.
1. Pheromones were first studied in insects
Pheromones were first encountered in a moth specie, the silkworm moth, Bombyx mori. Likewise, Bombykol, the sex pheromone detected in the said specie, was the first to be isolated and studied. Female silkworm moths used the said pheromone to attract males for mating.
2. There are four types of Pheromones.
Four pheromones differ in eliciting a response from the signal receiver - releasers, signalers, modulators, and primers.
Releasers result in an instant and specific behavioral response from the other individual upon secretion. Signalers provide more information about the individual that released them.
Modulators, on the other hand, affect another individual’s mood or emotion upon release. Lastly, primers affect the endocrine or neuroendocrine systems over time, eliciting changes to another individual’s reproductive physiology or development.
3. Pheromone interactions have evolved.
Certain animal species developed unique pheromone interactions for a specific type of pheromone through years of evolution and natural selection. For example, pheromone compounds function as signalers in two ways.
One way is for an individual to increase their sensitivity. This way, straightforward detection of a cue in the environment, such as in goldfishes where males can look for a sexually mature female, is done.
Another way is to exploit the preexisting sensitivities of the signal receiver. Such can be observed in European beewolf wasps. Males influence the females’ sensitivity to the odor given off by honeybees, their prey.
4. Pheromones have other functions apart from improving mate selection.
There are different types of pheromones. So, it’s only natural for these chemical signals to have various functions. For example, pheromones play an exceptionally essential part in mediating social insects.
Such insects belong to colonies like ants, bees, and wasps. In these colonies, pheromones help define an individual’s role as a queen, solder, or worker.
5. Humans can’t detect pheromones.
As mentioned in the earlier section, humans can’t detect pheromones because of the lack of a vomeronasal organ. However, it still very much affects humans of opposite genders. That is because of the presence of skin microflora.
Aerobic diphtheroid bacteria act on pheromonal compounds in the apocrine glands. So, the initially odorless compounds eventually gain odor.
Apart from microbial fixation, the volatility of these compounds also plays a huge role. Higher volatility entails higher chances of diffusing into the air and detection.
6. Human pheromones aren’t comparable to their animal counterpart.
Studies have hypothesized that some human pheromones are also present in some other mammals. However, human pheromones are not as potent as their animal counterpart. Others argue that they don’t exist at all. Regardless, the absence of the vomeronasal organ in humans is mainly responsible for the potential nondetection of such compounds.
7. Pheromones are often linked to women.
In humans, pheromones are often linked to women due to the different phenomena attributed to them. Examples of this are the modulator and primer tendencies of pheromones in women.
The modulating effects of pheromones affect women’s moods. Likewise, period synchronization in women living in close quarters has also been observed.
8. Pheromones as a fertility aid and mood enhancer.
Pheromone products are famous for their uses in improving one’s sexual appeal. However, pheromones have various benefits in humans as well. Taking advantage of its reported modulator effects, humans use pheromones to reduce anxiety and improve overall mood.
In women, it is also reportedly used in improving fertility. It also has application in agriculture, wherein a process called pheromone disruption aids in pollinating different crops.
9. Pheromones can affect appetite and immunity.
A study has reported that pheromones can cause anorexia nervosa. A puberty delay induced by reception and auto reception of pheromone emissions reportedly causes the illness.
10. The effects of human pheromones are still undergoing extensive studies.
Although there are several studies on the presence and potency of human pheromones, views on this topic still clash. Such diverse perspectives on pheromones stem from a need for more evidence. While there are many studies on it, only some results can prove its validity.
11. The mechanism behind attraction is still unknown.
The mechanism that fuels the attraction induced by pheromones hasn’t been 100% explained. However, insufficient findings on human pheromones, despite the many studies on them, are the main reason behind such clashed perspectives around it.
Thinking Like a Cat!
The human attraction may be more complex than one may think it is. However, one step to understanding more about it is pheromones. Pheromones are chemical signals in most animals and, arguably, humans.
Many studies on pheromones clash in their opinion of their actual function in humans. However, many agree that further research is needed to truly validate the role of human pheromones. Nonetheless, pheromones are an interesting topic to dive into.
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