Human tears contain a chemosignal

Science. 2011 Jan 14;331(6014):226-30. doi: 10.1126/science.1198331. Epub 2011 Jan 6.


Emotional tearing is a poorly understood behavior that is considered uniquely human. In mice, tears serve as a chemosignal. We therefore hypothesized that human tears may similarly serve a chemosignaling function. We found that merely sniffing negative-emotion-related odorless tears obtained from women donors induced reductions in sexual appeal attributed by men to pictures of women's faces. Moreover, after sniffing such tears, men experienced reduced self-rated sexual arousal, reduced physiological measures of arousal, and reduced levels of testosterone. Finally, functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed that sniffing women's tears selectively reduced activity in brain substrates of sexual arousal in men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Arousal*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emotions*
  • Face
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Odorants
  • Pheromones, Human / analysis*
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Smell
  • Tears / chemistry*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology
  • Testosterone / analysis*
  • Young Adult


  • Pheromones, Human
  • Testosterone