Pheromone Science: Androstadienone And Dominance

Happy Friday, Love Scent fans!

Today, we’re going to take a look at more scientific research into pheromones. This time, we’ll take a look at the relationship between AndrostaDIENONE and dominance.

AndrostaDIENONE is one of the most well-researched pheromones there is. It is found in sweat and has distinct sex-specific effects–meaning that its effects differ for men and women. Past research has shown that AndrostaDIENONE puts women in a better mood[1] and makes them more generous[2], while it puts men in a worse mood…but still makes men more generous. Its effects also depend on a person’s sexual orientation: straight women and gay/bisexual men respond to it in similar ways, both in terms of attraction[3] and in terms of how masculine they view men when under the influence of AndrostaDIENONE[4].

We also know that AndrostaDIENONE affects our ability to process emotional information, especially information that we believe might indicate anger[5]. This effect is also sex-specific: men who smell AndrostaDIENONE respond more quickly, but not more accurately, to emotional situations that they interpret as angry, while women don’t respond more quickly but do respond with greater accuracy. This has led researchers to believe that AndrostaDIENONE may play a role in warning people that an angry or potentially dangerous person might be nearby, and prime them to deal with the situation–possibly by diffusing the tension, judging by AndrostaDIENONE’s ability to increase a person’s generosity regardless of the mood it puts them in.

Another study[6] may shed more light on AndrostaDIENONE’s role as a cue for potential tension. This study focused on men–in particular, men with social anxiety. The purpose was to study AndrostaDIENONE’s impact on socially anxious men’s behavior and, in turn, learn more about the purpose that AndrostaDIENONE might serve as a human pheromone.

Broadly speaking, social anxiety refers to an intense fear or discomfort that a person feels in social situations, and often creates unreasonable concerns of rejection or judgement. This can lead to poor self-esteem, social isolation, anxiety, and other problems. It is not the same as shyness, and can have a severely negative impact on a person’s life. It is also, unfortunately, a common condition, and one that can make it difficult to maintain healthy social relationships. (The good news is that social anxiety is very treatable with the appropriate therapy, so if you suffer from this condition, do not hesitate to speak to your doctor about it and start a treatment plan. Your future self will thank you.)

To examine the effect that AndrostaDIENONE has on men with social anxiety, a group of 26 men with high social anxiety, and another group of 26 men with low social anxiety, were exposed to the pheromone and a placebo control solution on two separate days. After being exposed to either the pheromone or the placebo, both groups were shown images of men depicting a range of dominant and neutral poses. Eye-tracking technology traced which parts of the images the study participants looked at. Researchers were then able to compare how the participants looked at the images when under the influence of AndrostaDIENONE and under the influence of the control placebo solution, and compare the effects from both exposures.

One factor that researchers looked at was the study participants’ willingness to look the images in the eye-region–or, put another way, their willingness to make eye contact with the images. As you probably know, making strong or prolonged eye contact is typically a sign of dominance. Many how-to guides to improving your respectability and perceived dominance recommend strong eye contact, and people who are perceived as being lower on the social ladder come across as rude or impertinent when they make strong eye contact (as if they are trying to assert themselves or claim a higher social rank than they have been granted). Some cultures discourage making eye contact with the dominant or highest-ranking person in the room. Our perceptions about eye contact are as deeply rooted in cultural attitudes and social conditioning as fundamental psychology, but most cultures consider eye contact and dominance to be related.

For people with anxiety and other behavioral or developmental disorders, prolonged eye contact can be extremely difficult if not virtually impossible. It’s one of the most common symptoms of social anxiety in particular[7]. Generally speaking, socially anxious people are very sensitive to what are known as “social threat cues”–subtle verbal or nonverbal displays of dominance, aggression, or other actions that could negatively impact a person’s safety or social status. Eye contact is just one of many social threat cues that socially anxious people pay strong attention to.

Turning back to the study: while it was basically a given that people with serious social anxiety would avoid looking the images in the eye, researchers weren’t sure whether AndrostaDIENONE would have any impact on how serious the avoidance was. In the end, though, the effects were very clear: exposure to AndrostaDIENONE, but not the placebo control solution, made socially anxious men even less likely to look at the eye-region of the images. They looked at the eye region less frequently, and looked at it for less time when they looked at it at all, when they had been exposed to AndrostaDIENONE specifically. Men with low social anxiety, very tellingly, did not show the same effect under the same conditions.

So, just as previous research indicated that AndrostaDIENONE prepares us for a potentially angry or aggressive person in our midst, this new research shows that it also exacerbates socially anxious men’s sensitivity to perceived social threats. All of this suggests that AndrostaDIENONE plays an important role in our day-to-day interactions, both by helping us detect possible danger and by giving us the tools to prepare for, avoid, or address it.

Now, what does this mean for you, as a pheromone user? Is AndrostaDIENONE a pheromone you should avoid, or do the positive effects outweigh the negatives? Will it help you come across as a cool and confident alpha, or will it just frighten people away (or perhaps make you feel even more anxious than you already do)?

The answer, as usual, is: it depends. Different people have different levels of sensitivity to different pheromones, and pheromones that work extremely well for one person might not work well for another person. Regarding AndrostaDIENONE specifically, we have always recommended that men use this pheromone sparingly due to its potentially negative impact on men’s moods. This new research also suggests that men with social anxiety should experiment with AndrostaDIENONE to see if it exacerbates their condition. If it doesn’t, great! You can continue using it and reap the benefits of the positive effects it has on women (or gay/bisexual men). If it does have too negative an impact on your mood or anxiety to continue using it, don’t worry! There are plenty of other pheromones out there that you can try.

The key takeaway from pretty much all pheromone research should be this: spend some time figuring out which pheromones work for you. Experiment with them by themselves, and in combination with each other. (For example, if AndrostaDIENONE has a negative impact on your mood, you can try combining it with the mood-elevating “icebreaker pheromone” AndrosteNOL to counteract the AndrostaDIENONE’s less-pleasant effects.) It can take some time to find the right pheromone or combination of pheromones, but the time spent figuring it out will be time well-spent when you do find something that works.

That’s all for now, Love Scent fans! We hope you find this research as fascinating as we do!


Men: what is your experience with AndrostaDIENONE? Have you noticed any negative effects on your mood or anxiety levels when using it? If so, did you stop using it as a result, or start combining it with other pheromones that could counteract the negative effects? Tell us about it in the comments! You can also contact us with questions, comments, and concerns. And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get free samples and 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. Bensafi M, Tsutsui T, Khan R, Levenson RW, Sobel N. Sniffing a human sexsteroid derived compound affects mood and autonomic arousal in a dose-dependent manner. Psychoneuroendocrinology. (2004) 29:1290–1299.

2. Perrotta, Valentina et al. The Putative Chemosignal Androstadienone Makes Women More Generous. Journal of neuroscience, psychology, and economics 9.2 (2016): 88–99.

3. Savic, Ivanka et al. Brain response to putative pheromones in homosexual men. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102 20 (2005): 7356-61.

4. Zhou, Wen, et al. Chemosensory communication of gender through two human steroids in a sexually dimorphic manner. Current Biology 24.10 (2014): 1091-1095.

5. Hornung J, Kogler L, Wolpert S, Freiherr J, Derntl B. The human body odor compound androstadienone leads to anger-dependent effects in an emotional Stroop but not dot-probe task using human faces. (2017) PLoS ONE 12(4): e0175055.

6. Banner, A & Gabay, S & Shamay-Tsoory, S.  Androstadienone, a putative chemosignal of dominance, increases gaze avoidance among men with high social anxiety. Psychoneuroendocrinology. (2018) 102. 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.11.025.

7. Schneier, Franklin & Rodebaugh, Thomas & Blanco, Carlos & Lewin, Hillary & Liebowitz, Michael. (2011). Fear and avoidance of eye contact in social anxiety disorder. Comprehensive psychiatry. 52. 81-7. 10.1016/j.comppsych.2010.04.006.


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