Front Page







World News in Audio

On Air


Talking Point


Low Graphics


Site Map

Wednesday, March 11, 1998 Published at 22:39 GMT


The scent of things to come
image: [ One company is already selling pheromone sprays and wipes ]
One company is already selling pheromone sprays and wipes

Human beings are led by their noses like animals when it comes to how they interact socially, research suggests.

Findings described as "ground breaking" in the science journal Nature show that people produce and respond to pheromones - subliminal scent messages widely used by animals to attract mates, mark out territory and recognise one another.

Womens' reproductive organs were shown to be affected by the natural chemicals, according to scientists from the University of Chicago.

Martha McClintock and Kathleen Stern discovered that women in close proximity tended to synchronise ovulation patterns when they picked up each other's female pheromones.

"Humans have the potential to communicate pheromonally, either by using an unidentified part of the main olfactory system, or perhaps with a sixth sense," said Martha McClintock.

Their findings could have a major impact on the possibility of pheromone-controlled natural birth control and fertility treatment.

But the idea that smells affect behaviour is not really a new one.

Scientists have acknowledged for some time that pheromones, the chemical compounds emitted through the body, play a part in the social and sexual behaviour of animals.

The new evidence appears to prove that they affect humans in a similar way - leading researchers a step closer to the secrets of sexual attraction.

Are we on the wrong scent?

[ image: Fine fragrances - why do we use them?]
Fine fragrances - why do we use them?
If research shows that these same chemicals exist in humans, why do we spend so much money on expensive fragrances.

Perhaps we should not be concentrating on artificial odours, instead allowing our natural smells to lead us to the perfect partner.

Convinced of this theory, one company, Kiotech, has already begun marketing sprays and wipes that enhance one's existing pheromones.

Rob Page, the company's managing director said: "Pheromones are your personal sexual signature. They're a smell we all give off in our key odour and in our sweat."

"Someone can look good and sound good but then you get up close and personal and you think, "Oh no." Or, "Oh yes!" That's when you've detected the pheromones which are coming off them."

Mairead Kelly, a fragrance supervisor for Superdrug, a high street pharmacy chain disagreed: "Everyone likes to feel individual by wearing a different fragrance."

Unfortunately, the latest research really only details the female response to female pheromones.

The sought-after answer to the effects on human sex appeal are almost as much of a mystery as ever.

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage

Link to BBC Homepage

Internet Links

The Olfactory Research Fund

A Taste of Smell

Smell Myths

Chemical Senses Journal

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
In this section

World's smallest transistor

Scientists join forces to study Arctic ozone

Mathematicians crack big puzzle

From Business
The growing threat of internet fraud

Who watches the pilots?

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

Sci/Tech Contents