Human Pheromones, Epigenetics, Physiology, and the Development of Animal Behavior
In eusocial insects like the honeybee, diet and pheromones are epigenetic determinants of virtually all aspects of each organism’s existence. The honeybee serves as a model organism for studying human immunity, disease resistance, allergic reactions, circadian rhythms, antibiotic resistance, development, mental health, longevity, and diseases of the X chromosome. Included among these different aspects of eusocial species survival are learning and memory as well as conditioned responses to sensory stimuli. Mammalian conditioning paradigms suggest that androstenol experientially conditions hormonal effects in females, which may be unconsciously associated with behavioral affects of androsterone in women. Androsterone smells like fresh sweat. It is an individual human male-specific and somewhat primate-specific component of axillary secretions that also contain androstenol, which influences levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and mood in women. LH is a measure of diet-dependent sexual maturity and fertility, which is influenced by mammalian pheromones. We evaluated individual video-taped fifteen-minute interactions of fourteen women with ovulatory phase levels of LH during a cooperative task. During the task, our male accomplice wore either a standardized androstenol / androsterone mixture diluted in propylene glycol, or just the diluent — with sandalwood odor added to keep him blind to his condition. When he was wearing the mixture compared to when he wore the diluent, women were more likely to make eye contact with him (t(12) = 3.43, p = .01; IRR: r = .964, p = .01). They also laughed more during the interaction (t(12) = 5.20, p <.01; IRR: r = .810, p = .01) and they rated themselves as being more attracted to him (t(12) = 2.786, p = .016). Our results combine the known effects of androstenol on LH and on mood in women with behavioral affects we attribute to androsterone. They also extend to human females the eusocial insect model for epigenetic effects of diet and pheromones on hormone-mediated gene expression during behavioral development. Our disclosed mixture better characterizes species-specific human pheromones; their life-long effect on physiology, and their affect on behavior with no need to change the 1959 definition of pheromones or to alter the concept of human pheromones first detailed in 1995. Epigenetic effects help to dispel the psychological construct that the pheromones of any species from insects to mammals uniquely determine genetically predisposed social context-dependent endocrine responses or behavior in an invariant way.