Sexing up human pheromones: How a corporation created a “scientific” myth

Short summary: “A corporation interested in patenting ‘human pheromones’ for profit created a long lasting myth that has drawn in many scientists as well as the general public. I describe what went wrong. As humans are mammals, we may have pheromones (chemical signals within a species). However, there is no robust bioassay‑led evidence for the widely published claims that four steroid molecules are human pheromones: androstenone, androstenol, androstadienone, and estratetraenol. Positive results are highly likely to be false positives. Instead, we need to use the rigorous methods already proven successful in pheromone research on other species. I will discuss the wider lessons for carrying out better human behavioural research, including olfaction.”

Biography: Dr Tristram Wyatt is a Senior Research Fellow at the Zoology Department, University of Oxford. The second edition of his single-author book Pheromones and Animal Behavior (Cambridge University Press) won the Royal Society of Biology’s prize for the Best Postgraduate Textbook in 2014. His TED talk on human pheromones has been viewed over a million times. His latest book is Animal behaviour: A Very Short Introduction, published by Oxford University Press in 2017.