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3 Subliminal Impacts That Pheromones Have on Relationships

You may do the walking in your relationship, but your pheromones do the talking.

Key points

  • Pheromones can affect human behavior and play an important role in relationships.
  • Especially in the initial stages, pheromones are pivotal in the attraction a person feels toward others.
  • Pheromones are chemosignals that facilitate bonding with others and influence emotions.
Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho / Unsplash
Source: Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho / Unsplash

Pheromones are elusive yet potent biochemical signals that play a crucial role in guiding social interactions among members of the same species. Derived from the Greek words “pherein” (to carry) and “hormon” (to excite), these chemical messengers influence various behaviors such as mating, territorial marking, and even aggression.

Originally observed in the evolutionary world of animals, pheromones acted as guiding mechanisms, aiding animals through survival challenges and ensuring the continuation of their species. While the extent of their influence in human biology was once debated, recent research has shed light on their importance in our interactions.

The inclusion of pheromones in human relationships stems from our shared ancestry with other species and the evolutionary continuity embedded in our biology. Although the full extent of their impact on human behavior is still unfolding, it’s clear that pheromones affect us at an individual level, influencing mood, attraction, and even cognitive processes.

Here are three key ways in which pheromones influence our connections with others.

1. The Chemistry of Attraction

Pheromones play a pivotal role in the initial stages of romantic interactions, influencing the perception of potential partners and fostering a sense of connection. Initially associated with sexual attraction in young adults, androstadienone, a pheromone emitted via male sweat, is now recognized to have broader social-emotional effects, enhancing the brain’s processing of emotional information. Research indicates that individuals more sensitive to androstadienone pay heightened attention to subtle emotional cues like angry or happy faces compared to those less sensitive. Moreover, heightened sensitivity to androstadienone correlates with a richer social life, including more friends, increased communication with close ones, and greater participation in social events and volunteer activities. It was also linked to recent sexual activity, frequent sexual thoughts, and a perception of sex as an important aspect of life.

Similarly, estratetraenol, a pheromone found in female urine, exerts a calming effect on men and heightens their sensitivity to female facial expressions. Studies examining the impact of estratetraenol exposure on men’s social cognition suggest that emotional reactions to touch are intensified under its influence. This indicates that exposure to estratetraenol might reshape men’s social cognition, particularly in sexual contexts, and potentially boost sexual motivation, thus facilitating behaviors associated with seeking a sexual partner.

2. Building Bridges of Trust and Connection

Scientific investigations have revealed the impact of certain pheromonal compounds on eliciting feelings of empathy, cooperation, and altruism, which enhance harmonious interpersonal relationships.

A study demonstrates the effect of androstadienone on altruistic behavior using an economic game. Researchers hypothesized that female participants exposed to androstadienone would exhibit more generous behavior and experience a more positive mood compared to those exposed to a control odor, with these effects being weaker or absent in male participants. The results confirmed these hypotheses: Women exposed to androstadienone made larger monetary donations and reported increased positive mood compared to the control condition.

Moreover, certain pheromonal signals have been implicated in modulating emotional responses and promoting prosocial behavior. Oxytocin, often referred to as the “bonding hormone,” is released in response to specific pheromonal cues, enhancing feelings of trust and affection between individuals. Similarly, pheromones associated with stress reduction and relaxation can contribute to the creation of a conducive environment for social interaction and relationship-building.

Therefore, when individuals encounter pheromones that resonate harmoniously with their own, they may experience a deepened sense of connection and rapport with others, facilitating the formation of deeper and more meaningful bonds.

3. Expressing Emotions Through Communication

According to a systematic literature review, chemosignals derived from various emotional stimuli, such as fear and sadness, impact receivers’ social interactions, danger detection, risk-taking behavior, eating habits, and performance under stressful conditions. Additionally, even positive emotions like happiness can be conveyed through body odors.

Another study revealed that fear chemosignals elicited fearful facial expressions and sensory arousal (increased sniff magnitude and eye scanning), while disgust chemosignals evoked disgusted facial expressions and sensory avoidance (decreased sniff magnitude, target-detection sensitivity, and eye scanning). These findings underscore the social significance of chemosignals in facilitating non-conscious communicative alignment.

Pheromones thus play a significant role in facilitating emotional communication between individuals, enriching the depth and quality of human relationships. These subtle signals convey various emotions and moods, shaping how people perceive and interact with each other. As our understanding of these chemical signals continues to evolve, so does our appreciation of their role in guiding human behavior and interactions. Recognizing the impact of pheromones on relationships allows us to gain insights into the subconscious factors influencing social connections.

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