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/ Evidence that androstadienone, a putative human chemosignal, modulates women’s attributions of men’s attractiveness

Evidence that androstadienone, a putative human chemosignal, modulates women’s attributions of men’s attractiveness

Tamsin K Saxton, Anna Lyndon, Anthony C Little, S Craig Roberts


Considerable research effort has focused on whether specific compounds found within human body odor influence the behavior or physiology of other individuals. The most intensively studied is 4,16-androstadien-3-one, a chemical which is known to modulate mood and have activational effects in the sympathetic nervous system in a context-dependent manner, but whose action in mate-choice contexts remains largely untested. Here we present evidence that this androgen steroid may modulate women’s judgments of men’s attractiveness in an ecologically valid context. We tested the effects of androstadienone at a speed-dating event in which men and women interacted in a series of brief dyadic encounters. Men were rated more attractive when assessed by women who had been exposed to androstadienone, an effect that was seen in two out of three studies. The results suggest that androstadienone can influence women’s attraction to men, and also that research into the modulatory effects of androstadienone should be made within ecologically valid contexts.

Summary of the Study by

Previous studies have shown that the effect of Androstadienone depends on the context in which the experiment is conducted. Therefore, in the new study, it was decided to examine the effect of Androstadienone in a “real-world” setting. It was considered that the best context for studying the effect of Androstadienone in male-female relationships would be so-called speed-dating events. Three independent meetings were conducted, each involving about 40 participants, with average ages of 20 years (1st study), 39 years (2nd study), and 32 years (3rd study). In total, 66 men and 54 women participated in the three studies. Each participant was asked not to consume alcohol before or during the study, and not to apply strong perfumes. The upper lip was moistened with a swab soaked in (1) water, (2) clove oil, or (3) Androstadienone. Participants were unaware of which substance was applied to them. The study began 15 minutes after application. Women were given appropriate cards on which they rated the attractiveness of men on a scale of 1 to 7 and indicated whether they would like to meet with a particular man again. Ratings of individuals who already knew each other were excluded from the results. The potential number of meetings between partners was 1173.

Results: In study (1), men received higher ratings from women who inhaled Androstadienone (mean rating = 3.8) compared to women who inhaled clove oil or water (mean rating = 3.1). In studies (2) and (3), the difference was not as high. This could suggest that Androstadienone has a more significant impact on individuals who focus more on sexual attractiveness, compared to older individuals who pay more attention to factors such as financial and social status.