Since the discovery of animal pheromones and the proposed idea of human pheromones, there has been an industry trying to capitalize on it. Whether is it perfume manufacturers, major retailers, or even the military, it seems as though almost everyone feels as though life can be improved through the use of synthetic pheromones. The following is a look into this growing industry.
Non-human synthetic pheromones have been used for decades for purposes such as pest control. The process is fairly complicated chemically, but essentially scientists test naturally occurring pheromones to find what they are made up of and synthesize chemical copies in labs. (Wircus, 2002) In 1993, synthetic pheromone research was taken a step further when the first human synthetic pheromone was developed and marketed by Dr. Winnifred Cutler of the Athena Research Institute; the pheromone that she synthesized was called Athena Pheromone 10:13 and supposedly was the copy of a pheromone given off by sexually active women and was to be worn to by women to attract men (www.athenainstitute.com).
Perfumes and Fragrances
Since then the industry has exploded, providing to whoever can pay the usually hefty prices better living through pheromones. Most companies in the industry focus their energy on making what amounts to love potions. One of the biggest manufacturers, Human Pheromone Sciences, Inc. (founders of naturalattraction.com), asserts on its homepage "It's not his/her smile. It's not his/her eyes. It's human pheromones at work." Though their website does not include the names of the synthetic pheromones use, they claim to have products especially for gay men, men, and women, which come in a range of products from a small roll-on tube of pure, unscented pheromones; to pillow spray; to body lotion. The director of Human Pheromone Sciences, Berliner, has recently founded a new company: Pherin Pharmaceuticals. They use synthetic pheromones not to improve the sex lives of their customers, but rather their lives as a whole. They have a range of products, some still in the testing phase and some already on the market that can do a variety of things ranging from surpassing appetite, to reducing social phobia and depression, to enhancing cognitive functioning (www.pherin.com). They claim that many conventional treatments for these disorders are not proven effective and if they are, many have unwanted side effects. If these new products work, they can change the way we think about not only the treatments of these disorders, but the disorders themselves.
Now back to the subject of pheromones for purpose of sexual attraction. Another major manufacturer of pheromones such as these is Intimate Research, Inc. As its name may suggest, they focus more on the use of pheromones to increase sexual proclivity of the users, whereas the products produced by Human Pheromone Sciences, Inc . direct more focus on attraction. Nonetheless, Intimate Research, Inc. has products for both men and women, but only in the forms of perfume and cologne (www.intimateresearch.com).
And of course, Dr. Cutler is still at Athena Institute, and they are still conducting pheromonal research; though they have moved on from their initial synthesizations in their research, they are still funded by her original discovery: Athena Pheromone 10:13, as well as the male version of the pheromone: Athena Pheromone 10X (www.athenainstitute.com).
The most commonly synthesized pheromones are areandrostenone, androstenol, androsterone. Areandrostenone has been linked with competitive and aggressive behaviors in men. It is often associated with sexuality, but that is not all it can be used for. Supposedly, it causes the wearer to display more dominant behavior, and gives off the vibe of an "alpha male". The second, androstenol signals social ability. Seen as an "ice breaker", it is often used by those who are socially nervous and would not normally approach people they do not know socially. It touted to make people feel more comfortable, friendly and talkative. Androsterone, the last of the most commonly synthesized pheromones signals masculinity. Like areandrostenone, it also gives the impression of an alpha male, and offers a sense that the wearer can provide protection and reliability. Though all of these pheromones are used to attract women to men, there is a purely female pheromone, copulins, which is secreted during ovulation. Studies have shown that if men encounter this pheromone, the woman displaying it is perceived as more attractive physically (Wircus, 2002).
Most synthesized human pheromones are used in a cosmetic sense. This is probably because the majority of human pheromones that have been isolated have to do with sexual interest and behavior. It is little wonder that companies have decided to reap the benefits of "natural attraction", but helping people with the dating scene is not all that pheromones have been discovered to do.
Enhanced Air in Retail
In 2004, Enhanced Air Technologies from Vancouver, British Columbia took synthesized pheromones one step further: they began selling them to retailers. In the commercial world, retailers must do what they can to get ahead of the competition, so for those who could pay for it, there was commercaire, an odorless pheromone designed to put people as ease. It was to be pumped through stores in an attempt to jump start sagging sales. The director of development of Enhanced Air Technologies, Nigel Malkin, made countless statements assuring the public that they were not being "drugged" and that the pheromone would not whip them into some sort of shopping frenzy, but rather, that if they felt more comfortable in the stores that they would stay longer and ultimately spend more money(PR Newswire, 2004). Also it would create customer loyalty; if you go into several stores at the mall, are you going to return to the regular store, or are you going to frequent the store that makes you feel suddenly and subconsciously calm and relaxed? Enhanced Air Technologies, and I'm sure everyone else, would argue for the latter.
Synthetic Pheromones in Casinos
Though the technology seems to be a perfect fit for retailers, especially in these economically troubled times, Commcercaire was actually developed for use in a large Las Vegas casino (whose identity remains anonymous in most easily accessible publications). The idea of the pheromone in casinos is similar to its uses in stores, but in the context it becomes a little more sinister. Casinos already use "tricks of the trade" to get clientele to spend as much money as possible, the use of chips instead of paper money, specially formulated lighting, and inexpensive alcohol being prime examples (Bet's-Off Bulletin, 2004). Add to that a subconscious feeling of well-being, even while the slots eat up all your money and you would think there would be some public outrage. This indeed happened two months after the commcercaire's release in 2004; production and research was shut down and Enhanced Air Technologies seems to have not published even a statement since. Even their website, www.commercaire.com, no longer seems to exist. Though nothing is certain, contributors to several pheromone forums conjecture that Enhanced Air Technologies must have foreseen this issue before the release of their product, and similarly would not be willing to give up an entire (possible extremely lucrative) project because of a little public outrage.
Insect Pheromones and Military Applications
There are, of course many uses for non-human synthetic pheromones as well. The most common of which is in pest control and removal. Pheromones can be used to lure the insects to different places in order to trap them. This practice, however, is mostly ineffective because a female (male attracting) pheromone is used for this and so the females are still free to lay their eggs, thus contributing to the problem. Pheromones can also be used to lure the insects to a different location, but from there the insects are killed or sterilized. These pheromones are usually mating pheromones and are used in association with visual signs. The last way in which pheromones are used in pest control is through mating disruption. Using this process, synthetic pheromones can minimize egg production in females, and they can also be used to send male insects on a "false trail", leading them away from the female insects and thus preventing mating (Wircus, 2002).
Though insect and human pheromones are clearly different, knowledge gained by insect pheromones is currently being tested by humans, the military to be exact, in an attempt to make more efficient several current practices. The research is still in the preliminary phases, and the currently published articles are so full of jargon and complex mathematical equations that it is hard to understand exactly how they want to implement the use of synthetic pheromones, but it seems clear that they want to attempt to capitalize on the ability of pheromones to organize and guide individuals into groups as they travel through space. Thus they are attempting to use synthetic pheromones to control unmanned robotic vehicles more easily and efficiently than they have before (Parunak, Brueckner, Sauter, & Postdamer, 2001).
The Big Question
Now comes the question you've all been waiting for: do synthetic pheromones actually work? Can I dab some behind my ears and meet the perfect mate? Can I pump them through my store and get more loyal customers? Can I get the revenue I make with my slot machines to be even higher? Unfortunately, the answer is that we don't know yet.
There is certainly research out there that would claim that synthetic pheromones do all that they claim to and more; however, most of these studies are funded by the very same companies that are trying to sell these pheromones. Most studies that they produce are more about presenting information that pheromones actually have an effect on humans than trying to prove that their products actually work(http://naturalattraction.com/research.html). But even without the science behind it, a quick google search for synthetic pheromones will show you countless blogs and forums of people who swear by the pheromone products that they buy. They swap comments about which products have worked for them, and with which perfumes they tend to mix their pheromones.
One journalist even when so far as to do an pseudo- study; one day she got dressed up, when out and observed the attention she received from the opposite sex. A week later, she went to the same place, wearing the same outfit but this time with an addition: androstenone. She found a significant increase in the attention she got from those around her, with responses including friendly hellos from some men, and "disturbing looks" from others. To her, this proved the affectivity of pheromones more than the previous scientific studies (Frederickson, 2003).
Unfortunately things are not quite that simple. It may be true that synthetic pheromones are really effective; however it is also likely that wearing the odorless liquid that supposedly causes lust at first sight gives the wearer a stronger sense of confidence than he or she usually does. Perhaps the wearer acts more friendly or receptive when they are actively looking for attention or act differently in other ways. Needless to say, the effects people see using pheromones could easily be attributed to lurking third variables.
The main problem is that most of the people doing the research, as referenced earlier, are part of the synthetic pheromone industry; they want the results to appear in their favor, so clearly studies that found information to the contrary would not be published. There is a small body of research from parties other than the pheromone industry, and they have mostly shown the ineffectively of pheromones. One study shows that a potential synthetic form of a female human pheromone had no effect on the sexual behavior of several married couples over the course of several months (Udry & Morris, 1977). Another simply states that androstenol as a human pheromone had no effect on the subjects' perception of attractiveness (Black & Biron, 1987). However, finding even that small body of information was a grueling task; the information simply does not exist in an easily accessible way.
The Ultimate Answer
If human pheromones really are all that they are cracked up to be, they certainly have the potential to change society. The people who are too shy to meet people can become outgoing people pleasers if they have enough money. The military can do much of its work with unmanned machinery led by synthetic pheromones, allowing the soldiers to complete other missions, potentially less in the line of fire. And retailers can draw more clientele into their businesses without flashy advertisements or sales. Life would certainly be different, but would it be improved? That's up for debate, what is certain is that more effective, nonbiased research needs to be performed before anyone can form an educated opinion of the topic.