Re: The Pheromone Connection

Anders Sandberg (
08 Jan 1999 20:13:08 +0100

"den Otter" <> writes:

>> HI_OCTANE is made with two powerful synthesized human 
>> pheromones, Alpha-Androstenol and Alpha-Androstenone." 

> (complete message available on request -- or did everyone on
> this list get it?)
> ======
> I'm not sure about the effectiveness of this particular product, but
> the underlying idea certainly seems logical: use pheromones to
> score (this is just one of many potential applications, of course).
> Very transhuman. Why rely on chance and bother with cumbersome
> mating rituals when you can simply splash on some pheromones
> and go stand next to your desired partner. "Ahem".
> Well, that's the theory anyway. Obviously there must be a glitch
> somewhere, or else (synthetic) pheromones would be "bigger" than
> Viagra by now. Anyone know more about this?

Well, since I'm the limbic systems guy on this list, I'll try (there are likely many others who have pieces of the puzzle).

The problem with pheromones is that they are subtle signals, and that they have to mesh with our other psychological factors to work. The signals from the vomeronasal organ get into the olfactory systems and likely get mixed up with a lot of other information before affecting the hypothalamus, amygdala and other important sites. This means that the effect is not necessarily reliable, and likely can be "reprogrammed" at least partially by upbringing and experiences. In women there is even receptors that trigger depending on HLA immune type, presumably to select for the right genetic diversity in offspring.

In short, all this adds up to that just dousing yourself with androstenol and androstenone will not make the ladies swoon at you. It will introduce a subconscious signal that *likely* suggests "Big Male" to the limbic system, but that might not necessarily produce a positive reaction...

Then there is the flip side: you will yourself smell a lot of pheromones. I have heard that one perfume manufacturer actually sells two gender-specific perfumes where the pheromones have been switched - the male one has female pheromones. The idea is that you feel better if you have the smell of the other sex on your skin, it suggests to your limbic system that you have just had sex, and this will contribute to creating wellbeing and likely a more charming behavior. If you add the power of placebo to this, it will likely have some effect.

I wonder how homosexuals react to these pheromones? The only things I could find on medline were fly, worm and rat experiments, and they are a bit too simple in this regard.

Of course, one can look at it in the other direction. A friend suggested actually removing the vomeronasal signal, so that he could remain more rational and less influenced by mere body chemistry. But then again, few are as rational as him in partner choice.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y