Happy Friday, Love Scent fans!
This week, we’re going to take a dive into recent pheromone research–specifically, the relationship between pheromones and emotion.
Anyone who has used pheromones knows that these substances can have powerful effects on our minds. From positive effects like increased sexual attraction and improved mood, to potentially negative effects like irritation or even aggression, pheromones have an undeniable influence on our emotions. That’s why we use them, and why we take care to use them properly: we want to make sure that the emotions we want are the emotions we get!
Sometimes, though, the effects that pheromones have on us aren’t as obvious to us as we’d think, even for seasoned pheromone pros. Recent research has revealed a very specific effect that is harder to notice: how certain pheromones influence our brain’s processing of emotional information.
This study used a “lexical decision task”–that is, a test that measured a person’s response to specific words–to test the link between pheromones and emotion. Specifically, it tested whether one of three pheromones influenced how a person responds to emotional information. The three pheromones tested were:
- AndrosteNONE, the “alpha” sex pheromone
- AndrosteNOL, the “icebreaker” social pheromone
- AndrostaDIENONE, the male emotional pheromone
The authors of this study tested each of these pheromones separately so that they could see whether individual pheromones, rather than pheromones in general, affected how people process and respond to emotional information. They also wanted to know whether specific pheromones would have unique effects.
The test subjects were divided into four groups: people exposed to AndrosteNONE, people exposed to AndrosteNOL, people exposed to AndrostaDIENONE, and a control group of people exposed to plain, pheromone-free mineral oil. The pheromones and mineral oil were applied right under the nose.
The subjects were then seated in front of a computer that showed random words. Some of the words had positive connotations, like “hope” and “kindness.” Others had negative connotations, like “war” and “fight.” Other words were neither positive nor negative, like “portion” and “century.” And others weren’t words at all, but just random collections of letters. Participants were asked to determine whether a word was a real word or not, and the study measured the time it took them to decide whether a word was a real word or a fake word.
The study tested two things: (1) if the the type of word made it harder or easier for people to tell if it was real or not (that is, if it was harder for people to decide that negative words were real words, which would suggest that their brain needed longer to process words with negative emotions attached to them); and (2) whether specific pheromones made it easier or harder for people to tell if words were real words or not. This would tell the researchers what links there might be between pheromones and emotion, and, more specifically, what effect the pheromones had on how our brains process emotionally-loaded information.
The researchers hypothesized that the pheromones would have noticeable influences. Because studies have shown that AndrostaDIENONE has an influence on our perception of emotional information and on women’s ability to focus , researchers definitely anticipated that AndrostaDIENONE would have similar effects in this study. Researchers also anticipated that AndrosteNONE would show effects related to people’s decisions on choosing a mate–specifically, that AndosteNONE would help people process all kinds of emotional information faster.
The results of the study, while fascinating, were a bit unexpected.
For starters, AndrosteNONE did indeed help study participants process emotional information more quickly…but only with words with positive connotations. Men and women alike were more quick to say that positive words were real words when exposed to AndrosteNONE, compared to people who were only exposed to mineral oil. With negative words, however, AndrosteNONE had the opposite effect: when exposed to this pheromone, it took people longer to recognize negative words as real words, meaning that it took their brain longer to process information with negative connotations. It usually takes the brain longer to process negative information, even without the influence of pheromones, but AndrosteNONE makes the brain take even longer. Essentially, AndrosteNONE enhances the emotional impact of words, whether that impact is positive or negative, and has that effect on both men and women.
This study also revealed something interesting about AndrosteNOL: it made men, but not women, more likely to recognize words as real words. The study compared the number of “false negatives” (people saying that a word was not a real word when it actually was) that occurred with the different pheromones, and found that men were much more likely to recognize words as real words when they were exposed to AndrosteNOL. This could indicate that men are more focused on a particular task when exposed to AndrosteNOL specifically–perhaps because they are feeling more alert, perhaps because they are feeling more competitive, or perhaps for some reason we haven’t yet identified. So AndrosteNOL, not AndrosteNONE, makes men more capable of processing lexical and emotional information…but does not have the same effect on women.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, came from the group exposed to AndrostaDIENONE. As we said, this particular pheromone has been shown to have a big influence on people’s emotions, whether it’s making people more attune to emotional information or influencing their own emotional state. In this study, however, AndrostaDIENONE’s influence on people’s emotions was essentially nonexistent. It did not help people process emotional information faster, but it didn’t make them take longer to process that information either. Really, it didn’t do much of anything. So does that mean that AndrostaDIENONE doesn’t have as big an influence on our emotions as we thought? Well, not really…it probably just means that AndrostaDIENONE helps us process visual emotional information (like facial expressions), but not necessarily verbal or lexical emotional information (like words with positive or negative connotations). It probably just means that AndrostaDIENONE’s emotional influence is more specific than we realized, which is actually pretty interesting!
So what does all of this mean for you, as someone who is interested in pheromones? Well, understanding the relationship between pheromones and emotion is critical to using pheromones properly, and making sense of the responses you get from wearing certain pheromones.
For example: knowing that AndrosteNONE helps people process positive information faster, but makes them take even longer to process negative information, means that you should take extra care not to give off any negative vibes when wearing AndrosteNONE. It can be distracting to the person you’re trying to attract, not to mention intimidating, and can make it more difficult to get closer to them.
Also, knowing that AndrosteNOL makes men more focused on their task, regardless of the emotions involved, is important information for men and women alike. Men can wear AndrosteNOL for its focus-enhancing self-effects, and women can wear it to capture men’s attention more effectively.
And while this study complicates our understanding of AndrostaDIENONE, the information provided is actually helpful: you’ll apparently have to pair AndrostaDIENONE with effective body language, not just nice words, if you want it to have a good influence on you and those around you.
All of this information emphasizes an important point: whatever your reasons are for using pheromones, they should be part of a larger strategy, not a whole strategy in themselves. Pheromones can enhance and improve your natural abilities, but always make sure that they’re not the only thing you’re bringing to the table. Pheromones are tools, not magic potions, and that’s an especially important thing to remember when it comes to pheromones and emotion.
Well, that’s all for now, Love Scent fans! We hope you find this pheromone research as fascinating as we do!
What links have you found between pheromones and emotion? Do certain pheromones have stronger influences on your emotional state than others? Tell us about it in the comments! And of course feel free to contact us directly with any comments, questions, or concerns, whether it’s about pheromones and emotion or anything else. Also be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to hear about blog posts, exclusive promotions, new products, and more!
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
1. d’Ettorre P, Bueno S, Rödel HG, Megherbi H, Seigneuric A, Schaal B and Roberts SC (2018) Exposure to Androstenes Influences Processing of Emotional Words. Front. Ecol. Evol. 5:169.
2. Hummer, T. A., and McClintock, M. K. (2009). Putative human pheromone androstadienone attunes the mind specifically to emotional information. Horm. Behav. 55, 548–559.
3. Lundström, J. N., Goncalves, M., Esteves, F., and Olsson, M. J. (2003). Psychological effects of subthreshold exposure to the putative human pheromone 4,16-androstadien-3-one. Horm. Behav. 44, 395–401. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2003.06.004