Sunday, January 9, 2011

The "Not Tonight, Dear" Pheromone

An online report in Science last week demonstrates rather convincingly that women’s emotional tears contain an odorless chemical signal, or pheromone, that reduces sexual arousal in men. The press immediately dubbed it the “Not Tonight, Dear” pheromone, though that may be a bit simplistic.

Nevertheless, the evidence is clear; the men in the study rated pictures of women’s faces as less sexually attractive after sniffing tears collected from women who cried while watching sad films. They also exhibited progressive reductions in testosterone in their saliva, reductions in several psychophysiological measures of arousal, and even reductions in the activity of regions of the brain associated with sexual arousal compared to the control group. (In the control group, the same men sniffed plain saline that had been trickled down the cheeks of the women who had previously generated the tears.)

The identity of the chemical compound in women’s emotional tears is not yet known. Nor is it known whether the compound produces any other responses in men besides sexual disinterest, or whether men’s tears might also be sending some sort of signal to women.

For more on the subject of pheromones, see a previous blog post titled "Sensing Danger in the Air".

No comments: