The Types Of Pheromones And How They Affect Humans

by Science 24 March 2022


The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

Pheromones are chemicals secreted by the vomeronasal organ in animals that causes changes in the behavior of other animals within the same species. There’s some evidence that pheromones trigger different kinds of behaviors in animals, but sexual behavior seems to be the primary goal of pheromone secretion.

Pheromones are different from hormones, as hormones are produced internally and only affect the individual. On the other hand, pheromones are considered ectohormones, which means they are produced externally and have an effect on others. While prevalent in non-human species, many people like to believe that this phenomenon occurs in humans, albeit slightly different. Is this true? What evidence is there to support this notion?

How Do Pheromones Work In The Animal Kingdom?

How Do Pheromones Work In The Animal Kingdom?

When animals secrete pheromones, it’s usually to fulfill a purpose that relates to their survival on some level, such as:

  • Alerting others of looming danger
  • Sexual arousal or mating
  • Creating the boundaries of their territory
  • Bonding between mothers and their offspring
  • Signaling to other animals that they need to get out of their space

Currently, much of the research done on pheromones has been on insects. This is due to the fact that studying this phenomenon on mammals is much more complex, considering insect behavior is more straightforward. While most mammals have developed a vomeronasal organ in their nose that allows them to detect pheromones, for humans, this organ atrophies in utero.

What Are The 4 Types Of Pheromones?

What Are The 4 Types Of Pheromones?

There are four types of pheromones in the animal kingdom that perform separate functions for the secretors. Here’s what they’re in charge of:


Releaser pheromones cause an immediate, reliable response that lets animals of the opposite sex know they are interested in mating.


Primer pheromones go through a cycle and take a little longer to elicit a response. For example, they might affect the menstrual cycle in females, either triggering the start of puberty or the affecting development of a pregnancy.


Signalers can provide insight into genetic relationships; for instance, they might help a mother recognize her offspring by scent alone, which creates a unique bond between mom and baby. Whereas fathers, for the most part, do not have this ability.


Modulator pheromones are typically found in sweat and can alter bodily functions in others, such as relaxing their mood or even synchronizing menstrual cycles in females.

How Do They Work In Humans?

Many up-and-coming startup companies attract customers with the promise of bottled human pheromones that help you attract your soulmate or become attractive to the opposite sex. However, many academic studies have failed to produce objective evidence stating these glorified love potions work.

One of the earliest proponents of human pheromones was Gustav Jager, a German doctor. He believed pheromones were secreted through the skin and hair follicles in the form of signature human odors that triggered the synchronization of female menstrual cycles in groups of women.

This phenomenon has been further studied in modern times at the University of Chicago, but the researchers’ methodology for gathering data has been questioned before.

Another study in 2017 tested participants’ abilities to detect one of three unique scents and asked them to identify the gender, attractiveness, or even how unfaithful the people whose scents they belonged to were. In the end, researchers concluded that there were no significant differences in the responses of those who were exposed to the odors and those who weren’t.

In conclusion, if there are human pheromones, they are likely so subtle that they do not overtly affect our behavior in the way they do for species in the animal kingdom. However, if you’re interested in learning more about how science continues to explore this phenomenon, visit this site for more information.

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