Thursday, May 1, 2014

Trusting Your Nose

Humans carry more secretion and sweat glands in their skin than any other primate, yet 70% of people lack a vomeronasal organ. Vomeronasal is a crescent-shaped bundle of neurons at the base of each nostril that allows a variety of species—from reptiles to nonprimate mammals—to pick up on pheromones. Still, scientists have continued to search for examples of pheromones that humans might sense.
Two strong pheromones are androstadienone (andro) and estratetraenol (estra). Men secrete andro in their sweat and semen, while estra is primarily found in female urine. Researchers have found hints that both trigger arousal in the opposite sex. Yet to be true pheromones, it is said that these chemicals must shape how people view different genders.
A study in the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing split men and women into groups of 24 and then had them watch virtual simulations of a human figure walking. The head, pelvis, and major joints in each figure were replaced with moving dots. Patrons in prior studies had previously ranked the videos as being feminine or masculine.
In this study, three videos were shown. On the leftmost frame, a video was shown that included a female gauged as having a quintessential female strut. Patrons noticed a distinctive swagger in the “hip” dots and how they compared with the flat pace of the “male” prototype in a video shown in the right frame. An unbiased walk was featured in the middle frame of the video, but when the subjects inhaled andro or estra, they judged the walk as either more masculine or more feminine.
The results depended on the viewer’s sexuality. Heterosexual women and gay men perceived the gender- neutral stride as more masculine after smelling andro, whereas estra had no effect on them. In contrast, study leader and behavioral psychologist Wen Zhou, pointed out that smelling estra influenced heterosexual males, but not females, toward perceiving the walkers as more feminine. Gender judgments of the simulated figures shifted on average by 8% for heterosexual men and women as well as gay men. 
It's very interesting to see how influential smells can be, especially when it comes to sexual arousal. I feel as though i'm going to pay attention to smells more after reading about this study.
Posted by Samuel Ustayev (Group C)