Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Humans have a nose for gender: Chemical cues influence perceptions of movement as more masculine or feminine

Date:
May 1, 2014
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
The human body produces chemical cues that communicate gender to members of the opposite sex, according to new research. Whiffs of the active steroid ingredients (androstadienone in males and estratetraenol in females) influence our perceptions of movement as being either more masculine or more feminine. The effect, which occurs completely without awareness, depends on both our biological sex and our sexual orientations.

The human body produces chemical cues that communicate gender to members of the opposite sex.
Credit: © olly / Fotolia

The human body produces chemical cues that communicate gender to members of the opposite sex, according to researchers who report their findings in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 1. Whiffs of the active steroid ingredients (androstadienone in males and estratetraenol in females) influence our perceptions of movement as being either more masculine or more feminine. The effect, which occurs completely without awareness, depends on both our biological sex and our sexual orientations.

"Our findings argue for the existence of human sex pheromones," says Wen Zhou of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. "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."

Earlier studies showed that androstadienone, found in male semen and armpits, can promote positive mood in females as opposed to males. Estratetraenol, first identified in female urine, has similar effects on males. But it wasn't clear whether those chemicals were truly acting as sexual cues.

In the new study, Zhou and her colleagues asked males and females, both heterosexual and homosexual, to watch what are known as point-light walkers (PLWs) move in place on a screen. PLWs consist of 15 dots representing the 12 major joints in the human body, plus the pelvis, thorax, and head. The task was to decide whether those digitally morphed gaits were more masculine or feminine.

Individuals completed that task over a series of days while being exposed to androstadienone, estratetraenol, or a control solution, all of which smelled like cloves. The results revealed that smelling androstadienone systematically biased heterosexual females, but not males, toward perceiving walkers as more masculine. By contrast, the researchers report, smelling estratetraenol systematically biased heterosexual males, but not females, toward perceiving walkers as more feminine.

Interestingly, the researchers found that homosexual males responded to gender pheromones more like heterosexual females did. Bisexual or homosexual female responses to the same scents fell somewhere in between those of heterosexual males and females.

"When the visual gender cues were extremely ambiguous, smelling androstadienone versus estratetraenol produced about an eight percent change in gender perception," Zhou says, a statistically very significant effect.

"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," the researchers write. "Moreover, they demonstrate that human visual gender perception draws on subconscious chemosensory biological cues, an effect that has been hitherto unsuspected."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Wen Zhou, Xiaoying Yang, Kepu Chen, Peng Cai, Sheng He, Yi Jiang. Chemosensory Communication of Gender through Two Human Steroids in a Sexually Dimorphic Manner. Current Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.03.035

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Humans have a nose for gender: Chemical cues influence perceptions of movement as more masculine or feminine." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140501123449.htm>.
Cell Press. (2014, May 1). Humans have a nose for gender: Chemical cues influence perceptions of movement as more masculine or feminine. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140501123449.htm
Cell Press. "Humans have a nose for gender: Chemical cues influence perceptions of movement as more masculine or feminine." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140501123449.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) — A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) — China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:  

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile iPhone Android Web
          Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins