10 January, 2011

Women's tears dampen male ardour

Tears shed by women contain chemical signals that decrease sexual arousal and testosterone levels in men, according to a study. The result, discovered by Noam Sobel, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and his colleagues, is published today in Science1.

The existence of pheromones — secreted or excreted chemical signals that produce a social response — in humans has been debated, although research has shown that human sweat communicates information about individual identity, genetic relatedness, emotional states and health status, says Denise Chen, who studies human olfaction at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Mouse tears contain sex-specific pheromones2, but scientists have not previously demonstrated that human crying is a form of chemical signalling. "This work provides really exciting evidence for another source of human chemosignals in tears," says Chen.
Weeping women

In the study, women watched sad films alone and captured their own tears with a vial that they held under their eye. Later, 24 men sniffed jars containing either the women's tears or saline that had been trickled down the women's cheeks, and then they wore a pad dipped in one of the fluids under their nostrils. Men who sniffed tears judged pictures of women's faces to be less sexually attractive than did men who sniffed saline, but their feelings of empathy were unchanged.

In a separate experiment, 50 men sniffed either tears or saline. Sniffing tears, but not saline, reduced their self-reported sexual arousal, levels of testosterone in their saliva and physiological measures of their arousal. Read on >>

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