Study shows some male pheromones may cause other males to be more cooperative

June 4, 2013 by Bob Yirka, Medical Xpress report

(Medical Xpress)—Two researchers in Finland have together found that some male pheromones appear to cause an increase in cooperative behavior in other men. In their paper published in the journal PLUS ONE, the two describe how they conducted a sniff test using test volunteers and monetary rewards to find a possible connection between pheromones and male human response.

Pheromones are chemicals that animals emit into the environment that cause a reaction in other animals—generally sexual in nature. Prior research has shown that humans too emit and respond to pheromones given off by members of the opposite gender. In this new effort, the researchers looked to see if pheromones given off by men have any noticeable impact on other men.

To find out, the researchers enlisted the assistance of 40 male volunteers, all of whom were in their mid 20's—each was asked to play a with one other volunteer. Each pair of players was given €10 as part of with the that it would be shared. Players were then allowed to take turns offering to split the money with the other (with the amount at their discretion) or to take money offered to them.

In the first run of the game, all of the players were monitored to see how they would share the money. Then, prior to running the game a second time, half of the volunteers were asked to sniff either a plain sample, or a yeast sample that had the male pheromone androstadienone mixed in with it. After completion of the second round of play, the researchers once again compared how the money was shared by the players, noting any differences in how players responded between the two runs.

Surprisingly, the exercise showed that the men that sniffed the pheromone offered to share on average, half a Euro more than did those in the first run of the game. Also surprising was that they were also willing to accept less when offered—on average half a Euro.

The researchers also monitored the of the volunteers as they were playing the game and found that those men with higher levels of testosterone were more likely to be more generous with their fellow men—offering more and accepting less money than did those with lower levels of the hormone.

The researchers suggest their findings may indicate that pheromones likely played a role in fostering cooperation between men early in human history, making survival of everyone more likely.

Explore further: Study shows men better at reading emotions in other men than in women

More information: Huoviala P, Rantala MJ (2013) A Putative Human Pheromone, Androstadienone, Increases Cooperation between Men. PLoS ONE 8(5): e62499. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062499

Androstadienone, a component of male sweat, has been suggested to function as a human pheromone, an airborne chemical signal causing specific responses in conspecifics. In earlier studies androstadienone has been reported to increase attraction, affect subjects' mood, cortisol levels and activate brain areas linked to social cognition, among other effects. However, the existing psychological evidence is still relatively scarce, especially regarding androstadienone's effects on male behaviour. The purpose of this study was to look for possible behavioural effects in male subjects by combining two previously distinct branches of research: human pheromone research and behavioural game theory of experimental economics. Forty male subjects participated in a mixed-model, double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment. The participants were exposed to either androstadienone or a control stimulus, and participated in ultimatum and dictator games, decision making tasks commonly used to measure cooperation and generosity quantitatively. Furthermore, we measured participants' salivary cortisol and testosterone levels during the experiment. Salivary testosterone levels were found to positively correlate with cooperative behaviour. After controlling for the effects of participants' baseline testosterone levels, androstadienone was found to increase cooperative behaviour in the decision making tasks. To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that androstadienone directly affects behaviour in human males.

Related Stories

Study shows men better at reading emotions in other men than in women

April 15, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Researchers at LWL-University Hospital in Bochum, Germany have found that male volunteers looking at photographs of human eyes were better at guessing the "mood" of the person in the picture, if the person ...

Study finds men most attractive with heavy-stubble

April 29, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A research team from the Evolution and Ecology Research Centre at the University of New South Wales has found that women find men most attractive when they have approximately ten days of beard growth. In ...

Pheromone helps mice remember where to find a mate

December 13, 2012
Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that male mice produce a pheromone that provokes females and competitor males to remember a preference for the place where the pheromone was previously encountered.

Recommended for you

The richer the reward, the faster you'll likely move to reach it, study shows

December 11, 2018
If you are wondering how long you personally are willing to stand in line to buy that hot new holiday gift, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine say the answer may be found in the biological rules governing how animals typically ...

Receiving genetic information can change risk

December 11, 2018
Millions of people in the United States alone have submitted their DNA for analysis and received information that not only predicts their risk for disease but, it turns out, in some cases might also have influenced that risk, ...

Using neurofeedback to prevent PTSD in soldiers

December 11, 2018
A team of researchers from Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. has found that using neurofeedback could prevent soldiers from experiencing PTSD after engaging in emotionally difficult situations. In their paper published in the ...

You make decisions quicker and based on less information than you think

December 11, 2018
We live in an age of information. In theory, we can learn everything about anyone or anything at the touch of a button. All this information should allow us to make super-informed, data-driven decisions all the time.

These bacteria may be the key to treating clinical depression

December 11, 2018
We like to think of ourselves as individuals.

Meditation adapts the brain to respond better to feedback

December 11, 2018
In a new study in the Journal of Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience researchers from the University of Surrey have discovered a link between meditation and how individuals respond to feedback.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2013
It is inaccurate to suggest that human pheromones are primarily sexual in nature. Anecdotal evidence from recent trials suggests that human pheromones rule human passionate behavior quite dramatically. Borderline personality disorder and criminal behavior can be alleviated for life by oral administration of 150 - 250 mg of healthy adult male facial skin surface lipid on a chewing gum vehicle. Similarly, complete and near instantaneous withdrawal from non-alcoholic drug addictions (heroin and cocaine, so far) without any of the usual & tragic symptoms of addictive drug recovery. Sexual perversions of pedophilia, homosexuality, satyriasis, nymphomania, and foot fetish have been alleviated with the same dose. It is high time for double-blind, cross-over, multi-center clinical trials.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 09, 2013
Showing, once again, that the urge to cooperate is at least as important as the tendency toward being selfish. I'd write a book about it, if I could ever find a publisher. (

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.