In this article, I explore pheromone communication research in humans. If Freudian thinking had given attention to the importance of olfaction, we would have a greater understanding of sexual behavior. Human behavioral studies would have included major chapters focusing on the role of smell in the practice of psychoanalysis.
There is no doubt that the vomeronasal organ (VNO) is present in the developing human embryo. However, the existence of a functional VNO in the adult is still questionable to many. The question is, are VNO structures in the adult sensitive to pheromonal stimulation?
“I don’t know why there’s a controversy about it,” says Avery Gilbert, Ph.D., a sensory psychologist. He’s referring to the continuing debate around pheromones and pheromonal communication. Dr. Gilbert believes that Jacobson’s organ is fully functioning in adults. In the absence of a vomeronasal organ, he says pheromonal communication is still possible.”
You don’t have to have a VNO. Animal studies show that blocking the VNO doesn’t necessarily disrupt pheromonal communication. We should be aware he says that people who’ve had nasal plastic surgery, may have had it removed unintentionally.
If anything, Dr. Gilbert believes that pheromones are transmitted, somehow, from person to person. He believes they are generated through sexual odors emitted by our skin into the air we breathe. “There are a lot of good examples (of pheromonal communication) we have from studies with rats and other rodents. A pregnant female rat responds alternatively to a strange male rat. The male rat’s odor can induce a spontaneous abortion leading to a renewed ovulation. This results in an advantage to the strange male rat. He can now introduce his sperm into a formerly closed gene pool.
How Pheromone Communication Occurs
In the case of human menstrual synchrony, it implies that there is some kind of cue. There is something transported through the air — through breath, skin, sweat, or urine.
And it results in observations that women living or working together have menstrual synchrony. This is a good example of human “pheromonal signaling.”
As to whether pheromonal communication occurs if only there is an anatomical functioning VNO, there are those like Dr. Gilbert who, again, are not entirely convinced that this is an absolute physiologic necessity.
“Let’s say the volatiles (in smell) from one person is reaching another person through (breathing from) an open mouth. By inhaling, there may be a number of things present including diesel fumes, food, the smell of someone’s antiperspirant.
Perhaps some pheromones are also present and you’re going to get an olfactory experience as well as pheromonal stimulation. But, will you be able to tell the two apart?” What’s important to note here, however, is that we can be conditioned behaviorally by our response to smells.
The idea behind sociobiology is that human behavior evolved from that lower order animals, including insects. One of the best books on this subject is The Moramnimal by Robert White. It uses Darwin’s evolutionary theory to explain how we evolved our behavioral and domestic structures.
Our present social condition, both good and bad, is the outgrowth of an evolutionary process. This process resulted from adaptations to our living together as social animals. These adaptations affected our genetic history and natural selection, making us what we are.
This selective process has despite political correctness distinguished women from men. Not only physically, but in terms of behaviors that underlie our desire for each other. In relation to our own western cross-cultural history, humans are oblivious to our deepest motivations.
Differences in Sexual Behavior
Differences in sexual behavior between men and women reveal a lot. For example, men want as many sex-providing child-making machines as they can comfortably afford. And women want to maximize the resources available to their children. As a sociobiologist, Wright sees this in terms of “mental modules” or as we term them, brain “schemata”. This is the inborn behavior where “love of offspring” affects the female choice of mate. Along with “attraction to muscles” or, “status.” The evidence supports sexual odor influences as a factor in defining the patterns of male and female behavior.