We were talking about tears as a unique human signal that are hypothesized to elicit empathy the other day (please someone, I would love a source on this, so I can stop bullshitting based on a vague memory of having read this somewhere potentially apocryphal), & it turns out they are effective even in the absence of the faces they are running down. When they are removed from the face & (without even the accompanying snot even) placed under the noses of male test subjects, arousal & testosterone levels in those males dropped! This from a short piece by Sarah Everts called “Sweat & Tears” in the March 2012 Smithsonian based on work from the Sobel lab, published in Science 2011, Issue 331 Vol 6014 (“Human Tears Contain a Chemosignal”).
Other interesting tidbits from the Smithsonian piece:
- The pheromones in boars that are sublimely effective are androstenon & androstenol, & they’re in the saliva (yum).
- A 2005 study found gay men prefer the smell of gay men, & heterosexual men prefer the smell of women.
- We all know about the classic smelly t-shirt contest & MHC compatibility.
- Newborn babies like the smell of boobs! No one knows what the chemicals are yet because they’re busy sniffing armpits, not breast milk.
- We can tell if someone is anxious by the smell of sweat (in reflecting, yes, perhaps, but I’m thinking that, yes, my sweat is different when I’m nervous–I’m not sure I’ve ever sniffed Uruk-style & said, “I smell anxious man-flesh”).