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Sex Smells- Human Pheromones Masculinize or Feminize

Update Date: May 01, 2014 07:11 PM EDT
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Sex smells, according to a new study on gender.

New research reveals that people are able to detect person's gender based on smell. Scientists explain that the human body creates chemical signals that convey its gender to members of the opposite sex. They discovered that whiffs of the active steroid ingredients, androstadienone in males and estratetraenol in females, affect how people perceive masculine or feminine movements.

The latest findings suggest that this phenomenon occurs unconsciously, and is influenced by both biological sex and sexual orientations.

"Our findings argue for the existence of human sex pheromones," lead researcher Wen Zhou of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said in a news release. "They show that the nose can sniff out gender from body secretions even when we don't think we smell anything on the conscious level."

Previous studies reveal that certain hormones in male semen and armpits boosted mood in females, and some in female urine enhanced mood in males. The latest findings suggest that those chemicals were produced based on sexual cues.

Both straight and gay men and women were asked to watch point-light walkers (PLWs) move in place on a screen. PLWs consist of 15 dots that represent the 12 major joints in the human body, as well as the pelvis, thorax, and head. Partiicpants were supposed to decide whether those digitally manipulated walks were more masculine or feminine.

The experiment took several days, and participants were unknowingly exposed to androstadienone, estratetraenol, or a control solution, all of which smelled like cloves.

The findings revealed that exposure to androstadienone consistently made straight females, but not males, perceive walkers as more masculine. On the other hand, , the smelling estratetraenol consistently influenced straight males, but not females, to perceive walkers as more feminine.

Homosexual males responded to gender pheromones more like heterosexual women, whereas responses of bisexual or homosexual females fell someone in between those of straight males and females.

"When the visual gender cues were extremely ambiguous, smelling androstadienone versus estratetraenol produced about an eight percent change in gender perception," said Zhou.

"The results provide the first direct evidence that the two human steroids communicate opposite gender information that is differentially effective to the two sex groups based on their sexual orientation," study authors wrote in the paper. "Moreover, they demonstrate that human visual gender perception draws on subconscious chemosensory biological cues, an effect that has been hitherto unsuspected."

The findings are published in the journal Current Biology.

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