Ecological Validity in the Study of Human Pheromones

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Abstract

Several constituents of human axillary secretions have been proposed as candidate human pheromones, but their influence on human behaviour remains controversial. Here we briefly review the literature on the behavioural effects of candidate compounds, noting that inconsistencies in findings could be due in part to the variation in experimental context and potential lack of ecological validity. We also report results of a pilot study which attempts to overcome these limitations in an ecologically-valid experimental paradigm: a speed-dating event. We tested the effects of 4,16-androstadien-3-one within a single speed-dating evening with 25 female and 22 male participants. We found a significant effect of androstadienone on female judgments of male attractiveness, which is consistent with the proposal that androstadienone could act as a modulatory pheromone in humans.