Scent of a woman: men's testosterone responses to olfactory ovulation cues

Psychol Sci. 2010 Feb;21(2):276-83. doi: 10.1177/0956797609357733. Epub 2009 Dec 22.


Adaptationist models of human mating provide a useful framework for identifying subtle, biologically based mechanisms influencing cross-gender social interaction. In line with this framework, the current studies examined the extent to which olfactory cues to female ovulation--scents of women at the peak of their reproductive fertility--influence endocrinological responses in men. Men in the current studies smelled T-shirts worn by women near ovulation or far from ovulation (Studies 1 and 2) or control T-shirts not worn by anyone (Study 2). Men exposed to the scent of an ovulating woman subsequently displayed higher levels of testosterone than did men exposed to the scent of a nonovulating woman or a control scent. Hence, olfactory cues signaling women's levels of reproductive fertility were associated with specific endocrinological responses in men--responses that have been linked to sexual behavior and the initiation of romantic courtship.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Courtship / psychology
  • Cues*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ovulation*
  • Sex Attractants / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • Young Adult


  • Sex Attractants
  • Testosterone