What is a pheromone?

Travis DixonBiological Psychology, Love and Marriage

Animals give off pheromones during mating season in order to attract mates.

Read more about pheromones in our eBook on Love and Marriage. This is designed for IB Psychology students studying “Personal relationships” for Paper 2.

A pheromone is a chemical messenger that is passed from one individual to another which has an effect on the receiving individual. One technical definition offered for pheromones is that they are “…substances which are secreted to the outside by an individual and received by a second individual of the same species, in which they release a specific reaction, for example, a definite behaviour or a developmental process” (Verhaeghe et al., 2013 link).

In the IB Psychology course, students should be able to explain how at least one pheromone influences human behaviour. They should also understand “the arguments for and against the influence of pheromones on human behaviour,” using one or more examples to support their points.

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Androstadienone is released under the arms of men and studies have shown it has a stronger effect on females than it does on males.

Numerous animal studies can be used to show the evidence for the effects of pheromones on behaviour, which could be used in the biological HL extension.

One study that I use to introduce the idea of androstadienone having an effect on attraction is Saxton et al.’s study during a speed dating event. You can read more in Topic 5.2 (b) (pp. 285-6) or you can download the full original here.

One approach that we’ve taken in our unit on Love and Marriage is to use the study of pheromones as a possible factor that influences attraction (i.e. the formation of personal relationships). The particular pheromone we look at is androstadienone, which studies show could have an effect on female attraction towards males.