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"I smell anxious man-flesh"
"I smell anxious man-flesh"

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").

After playing a sad movie scene for a group of women, researchers collected their tears and placed the unidentified fluid under men's noses. The result was a reduced sexual arousal and testosterone levels.
After playing a sad movie scene for a group of women, researchers collected their tears and placed the unidentified fluid under men's noses. The result was a reduced sexual arousal and testosterone levels.
Eric Palma
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/The-Truth-About-Pheromones.html#ixzz2C13NW642

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").