Pheromones{fair’-uh-mohn}  (from the Greek pher, “to carry” and horman “to stimulate”) are chemicals released by organisms into the environment, where they serve as signals or messages to alter behavior in other organisms of the same species. Pheromones are a class of compounds that insects and animals produce to attract members of their own species. These compounds are secreted by the body in very small amounts but are never-the-less effective in producing instinctive behavior when detected by the nose. In insects and animals, most sexual and social behavior is controlled by pheromones.

Humans have used perfumes for thousands of years, but there is a basic difference between perfume and pheromones. Pheromones are produced by the body and usually do not smell at all pleasant, whereas perfumes are either synthesized or extracted from natural products and are employed because of their pleasant smell. Scientific research suggests that there are human pheromones for both the male and the female. Females have a better developed sense of smell and testing indicates that they are more responsive to male pheromones than the reverse.

Research over the years has found that the male pheromones belong to a class of compounds called steroids, in particular derivatives of androstenone, which are secreted by perspiration glands on our bodies. The compound androstenone, and a related product androstenol, are the most commonly used compounds for testing the effects of pheromones on humans. The tests usually involve getting subjects to select preferred objects from a group of objects some of which have been sprayed with pheromones. For example; statistics are taken of the use of the chairs in a dental waiting room when one of the chairs has been sprayed with pheromones. It is reported that females favor the chair marked with a male pheromones whereas males tend to avoid the chair.  Usually the subjects report that they are not conscious of the smell of the pheromones, the preference shown appears to be a subtle unconscious action in most cases.

To the perfume industry, the pheromone compound frequently contains androstenone dissolved in a solvent. Also included is a masculine-like cologne that is attractive to women. Upon application the solvent will evaporate leaving the residual perfume and the androstenone. The small amount of perfume is designed to attract women consciously while the androstenone-pheromone works in the background in the unconscious way of most pheromones.  Next time you are strangely attracted to a person of the opposite sex, you could think whether or not they are consciously using a pheromone.

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