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, 55 (4), 548-59

Putative Human Pheromone Androstadienone Attunes the Mind Specifically to Emotional Information


Putative Human Pheromone Androstadienone Attunes the Mind Specifically to Emotional Information

Tom A Hummer et al. Horm Behav.


The putative human pheromone Delta4,16-androstadien-3-one (androstadienone), a non-androgenic steroid found in sweat and saliva, modulates psychological, physiological and hormonal responses without detection as an odor. To determine the specific psychological processes altered by androstadienone, four studies were completed by 50 men and women after solutions of 250 microM androstadienone or clove-odor control carrier, on separate days, were applied to their upper lip: (1) face pairs were subliminally presented, with one face neutral and the other happy or angry. Androstadienone accelerated speed to locate a subsequent dot probe appearing on the same side as emotional faces, without affecting overall reaction times, indicating that androstadienone specifically enhanced automatic attention to emotional information. (2) In two Stroop paradigms, emotional or mismatched color words interfered with ink color identification. Androstadienone slowed ink color identification of emotional words, demonstrating greater allocation of attentional resources towards emotional information, with no effect on the cognitive Stroop. (3) To test effects on social cognition, participants performed two working memory tasks with distinct stimuli, neutral faces or shapes. Androstadienone did not alter attention to either the social or nonsocial images. (4) The ameliorative effects of androstadienone on self-reported attentiveness were replicated, consistent with increased attention to emotional visual stimuli. Moreover, androstadienone did not alter positive or negative mood, as participants were alone during testing, which removed emotional stimuli from social interactions with a tester. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that subliminal androstadienone guides psychological resources to specifically engage stimuli with emotional significance and does not alter attention to social or general cognitive information.

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